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South America and Africa are trailing far behind the rest of the world in terms of their scientific output, according to a new study.

An analysis of the number of scientific research papers published by institutions located in 'urban centres' around the globe found that Africa and South America did not feature among the most scientifically active centres.

Research institutes in the 40 most scientifically prolific 'urban centres' — which together account for almost 40 per cent of published papers — are dominated by Europe and North America. Australia has one centre in the top 40, and the whole of Asia has just three.

However, the data also suggests that the importance of centres in northern Europe and the United States will decrease as those located in Southern Europe and the Pacific Rim increase their profiles.

"The big winner is Beijing, with a more than 60 per cent increase in research output from 1996-1998 to 1999-2001," say the authors of the study in a letter to Science.

© SciDev.Net 2002

Link to letter in Science