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Benchmarking of research output- a global study

From Biomed Central, a 'Health Research Policy and Systems 2008' paper provides a large set of data which the authors (1) point out needs qualitative aspects estimated. Nevertheless, the paper provides some interesting data to think about regarding aspects of the role that publishing has for building scientific knowledge.
The present sudy was performed to establish a first overview on global publication activities as a benchmark of quantitative research output.

Institutional operating figures and benchmarking systems are important features for the implementation of efficacy in basic and applied sciences. They are needed for research evaluations and funding policy.

This study assessed benchmarking by research output. The paper describes their data search strategies using the Web of Science on line academic database which covers 8700 leading journals in science, technology, social sciences, and humanities.
Specific areas of major research activity were identified by comparing publication density on different organ systems. Comparisons of data were made in selected countries.This study is the first large scale analysis of global research and output activity over the last 50 years. The authors propose that their study describing an assessment of operating figures at the national and international level can be used to identify single areas of research that are heavily focused. Further research on qualitative output benchmarking is needed to improve policy settings for research evaluations.
They found a dichotomy between Western countries such as the US, UK or Germany and Asian Countries such as Japan, China, or Korea concerning research focuses. They note also a remarkable difference present in the individual focus of each country they analyzed.
Whereas the Western countries have a clear focus on heart and brain related publications, the Asian countries all primarily focus on publications related to the organ liver. They observe that this cannot be attributed to the burden of disease which is dominated by cardio vascular, neurovascular, respiratory and infectious diseases.
Some of the data shows comparative rankings of selected countries by the total numbers of published items. There is also a comparison made by relating the total published items to the respective country's GDP, among other comparisons made.
The authors provide interesting density-equalizing mappings for visualization of their data according to a recently published method.
(1)http://www.health-policy-systems.com/content/6/1/6'Institutional operating figures in basic and applied science: Scientometric analysis of quantitative output benchmarking' by Beatrix Groneberg-Kloft, Cristian Scutaru, Carolin Kreiter, Silvana Kolzow, Axel Fishcher, and David Quaroo of Free University of Berlin and Humboldt- University.

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