Finnish science more international than before, standard of research better than world average

16 Nov 2021

Finland continues to maintain its position as a producer of high-impact research that ranks above the world average, despite growing international competition. At the same time though, many peer countries remain ahead of Finland. The latest data compiled by the Academy of Finland for its State of Scientific Research reviews indicate that the same trends apply for individual fields of science when the standard of research is assessed by citations to scientific publications.

The total number of scientific publications in the world has increased. In Finland, scientific production grew from around 32,900 to 43,200 publications over the period 2005–2018. During the four-year period from 2015 to 2018, 72% of scientific publications were produced by universities, 10% by government research institutes, 7% by university hospitals and 4% by business companies.

The impact of scientific publishing is often assessed using the top 10 index, which describes the number of most cited publications as a proportion of the total publication number. The top 10 index can also change retrospectively as publications receive new citations. For this reason it is always useful to monitor trends based on time series.

Based on an examination of the number of citations to publications published in a specified period during the four-year term 2005–2008, Finland’s top 10 index was 1.02, close to the world average (1.0). Ten years later in 2015–2018, the index had edged up to 1.07.

In 2015–2018 there were just 22 other countries in the world with a top 10 index for scientific publishing above the world average. Together, Finland and these 22 countries accounted for 62% of total world scientific publications. Among the countries with the largest publication volumes, this list was topped by Singapore (top 10 index 1.71), followed by Switzerland, the Netherlands, the UK, the United States, Australia and Denmark (1.31). In the Nordic group, Sweden’s index was 1.19 and Norway’s 1.03.

The geography of science has been undergoing momentous transition. Chinese publication numbers and citations have risen sharply. In 2005–2008 China accounted for 9% of total world publications and the United States for 26%. Ten years later, China’s share was 17% and the US share 19%. China’s top 10 index currently stands above the world average, while for most Western countries the index has shown a downward trajectory.

Number of foreign teaching and research personnel and volume of international R&D funding have increased considerably in Finland

Teaching and research personnel at Finnish universities come from an increasingly diverse international background. Foreign teaching and research personnel accounted for 4,660 FTE person-years in 2020, or more than one-quarter (27%) of the total number of teaching and research person-years. This trend towards the internationalisation of teaching and research has been very strong and noticeable in the 2010s. In 2012, 17% of universities’ teaching and research personnel were other than Finnish nationals. The proportion of foreign nationals among PhD and postdoctoral researchers has risen far more rapidly than in subsequent career stages. However, the share of foreign teaching and research personnel varies widely between universities.

Finnish universities, universities of applied sciences and government research institutes have all managed to attract more R&D funding from abroad. Universities’ foreign R&D funding has increased by 43% from 2012 to 2020, when foreign sources accounted for 122.8 million euros of universities’ R&D spending. At universities of applied sciences, foreign R&D funding amounted to 55.9 million euros in 2020, up by 44% from 2012. In both the university sector and government research institutes the biggest foreign source of funding by far is the European Union.

The importance of international collaboration is clearly visible in scientific publishing. In 2005–2008 international co-publications accounted for 43% of all scientific publications in Finland; by 2015–2018, that proportion had risen to 63%. At least one of the authors contributing to an international co-publication comes from an organisation based in a country other than Finland.

International co-publications also attract much more attention from the science community, as measured in the form of citations. The top 10 index for international co-publications in Finland and peer countries was much higher than the index for publications not involving international collaboration. In Finland this was the case in virtually all field of science categories.

Data sources: Web of Science database (Clarivate Analytics), bibliometric calculations by CSC – IT Centre for Science, 2020 and 2021; Vipunen – Education Statistics Finland, University education, Personnel; Vipunen – Education Statistics Finland, Higher education and R&D activity, Research and development activities (Statistics Finland data); Statistics Finland, Research and development activities.

Latest statistics on the state of scientific research in Finland and separate analyses

Statistics on the state of scientific research in Finland provide information about research funding and research personnel as well as scientific publishing. The analyses are structured around research sectors, individual research organisations and field of science categories. In addition, analyses of RDI funding and scientific publishing include comparisons of the situation in Finland with peer countries. Compared with earlier reports, the latest statistics include more information about universities of applied sciences and government research institutes.

Furthermore, the Academy has published a report produced by CSC – IT Centre for Science on Identifying research topics and collaboration networks in Finland using topic modelling on scientific publications in 2008–2019.

In connection with the various sets of statistics compiled on the state of scientific research in Finland, a statistical report has also been prepared on PhD employment and placement. This report provides an overview of PhD employment in R&D roles by employer sector and presents data for all employed PhDs by employer sector, gender, citizenship (Finland, other countries) and field of PhD degree and academic age.

The statistical materials produced by the Academy of Finland in connection with its State of Scientific Research reviews support the development efforts of higher education institutions and research institutes and strengthen the knowledge base available to science policy stakeholders. Working in close coordination with the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture, the Academy of Finland has adopted a new format for reporting on the state of scientific research in Finland. Under the new format, statistics will be published annually. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the publication of statistics scheduled for 2020 were postponed to autumn 2021.

The next round of statistics is scheduled for 2022.

Statistics on the state of scientific research:

Other reports of interest:

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  • Otto Auranen, Senior Science Adviser, tel. +358 295 335 141 (Statistics on the state of scientific research in Finland, Identifying research topics and collaboration networks report)
  • Laura Taajamaa, Senior Science Adviser, tel. +358 295 335 027 (Statistics on the state of scientific research in Finland, Identifying research topics and collaboration networks report)
  • Anu Nuutinen, Senior Science Adviser tel. +358 295 335 085 (Impact grows out of competence report)

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