Visualization tools in estimating quality of scientific output

IN a Correspondence to EMBO reports (10, 800-803; 2009), Beatrix Groneberg-Kloft, David Quarcoo and Cristian Scutaru of the Free University Berlin and Humboldt University, Berlin, describe a combination of scientometric tools and new visualizing techniques such as density equalizing mapping to show that research in the European Union has developed well so far this decade. Despite static levels of research spending as a percentage of the gross domestic product (GDP), the authors write that success of European science should not only be measured in terms of ‘work force’ and spending, but also in terms of its actual output—that is, publications.

The authors report that the total number of publications from European research groups in all journals listed in PubMed increased between 2000 and 2006, an increase of 49.37%. The growth in scientific publications ranges from 24.09% in Finland, to 37.02% in the UK and 44.09% in Germany, to immense increases of 162.12% in Portugal and 402.70% in Lithuania, correlating significantly with the GDP of each country.

As well as this quantitative marker, the authors used citation indices—total citation numbers or average citation per publication—from the Web of Science (WoS) database as qualitative or semi-qualitative parameters. They analysed the data for the total number of articles from a specific country; the total number of citations for a specific country; the average number of citations per published item for countries with at least 30 published articles; and bilateral research cooperations.

After presenting a number of maps, charts and tables, the authors conclude that scientometric tools combined with visualizing techniques can track and analyse scientific progress, displaying the results in an easily accessible manner.


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