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Finland’s scientific performance

A newly released report by the Ministry of Education and Culture in Finland reveals that the country is doing relatively well in terms of publications and citations in the Web of Science. The report, produced by the Finnish Citation Index Working Group II and covering the period 1990-2009, looks at the evolution in the number of publications by Finnish research organisations and assesses their impact based on the number of publications and citations included in the Thompson Reuters ISI Web of Science.

The report finds that the number of Finnish publications in this database more than doubled in the ten-year span, with an uneven growth across major disciplines. The highest increase was in the field of technology, while the lowest in the field of medicine and health. It is worthwhile mentioning also that the available data is more comprehensive for contributions in natural sciences and medicine, while less so in the other fields. At the global level, though, Finland’s share of world output slightly decreased over time, despite the fact that in the period 2006-2009 Finland reports to have produced the highest number of publications per capita of all OECD countries. Interestingly, this indicator is calculated against total population of the country, and not against the total number of academic staff or paper authors. The results apply to the entire Finnish research system, which, according to the report, consists of 16 universities, 29 universities of applied sciences (polytechnics), 18 state-funded research institutes and 20 “hospital districts” (including 5 university hospitals).

The report authors also clearly outline some of the caveats of this assessment method, most of them related to the limited coverage of the existing data base in the field of humanities and social sciences. While the conclusions of the report are clear, it is yet an open question what purpose the report is to serve. In other words, it is not yet specified whether for the ministry this piece was to simply be a “for information only” resource, or whether it plans to “act on it”, i.e. use the results for designing initiatives meant to improve the country’s positioning in higher education rankings in the near future.

Ministry of Education and Culture