The geography of references in elite articles: What countries contribute to the archives of knowledge

by   Lutz Bornmann, et al.

This study is intended to find an answer for the question on which national "shoulders" the worldwide top-level research stands. Traditionally, national scientific standings are evaluated in terms of the number of citations to their papers. We raise a different question: instead of analyzing the citations to the countries' articles (the forward view), we examine referenced publications from specific countries cited in the most elite publications (the backward-citing-view). "Elite publications" are operationalized as the top-1 most-highly cited articles. Using the articles published during the years 2004 to 2013, we examine the research referenced in these works. Our results confirm the well-known fact that China has emerged to become a major player in science. However, China still belongs to the low contributors when countries are ranked as contributors to the cited references in top-1 perspective, the results do not point to a decreasing trend for the USA; in fact, the USA exceeds expectations (compared to its publication share) in terms of contributions to cited references in the top-1 Sweden, and the Netherlands also are shown at the top of the list. However, the results for Germany are lower than statistically expected.


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