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The Scientific Competitiveness of Nations


  • Giulio Cimini
  • Andrea Gabrielli
  • Francesco Sylos Labini


We use citation data of scientific articles produced by individual nations in different scientific domains to determine the structure and efficiency of national research systems. We characterize the scientific fitness of each nation—that is, the competitiveness of its research system—and the complexity of each scientific domain by means of a non-linear iterative algorithm able to assess quantitatively the advantage of scientific diversification. We find that technological leading nations, beyond having the largest production of scientific papers and the largest number of citations, do not specialize in a few scientific domains. Rather, they diversify as much as possible their research system. On the other side, less developed nations are competitive only in scientific domains where also many other nations are present. Diversification thus represents the key element that correlates with scientific and technological competitiveness. A remarkable implication of this structure of the scientific competition is that the scientific domains playing the role of “markers” of national scientific competitiveness are those not necessarily of high technological requirements, but rather addressing the most “sophisticated” needs of the society.

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  • Giulio Cimini & Andrea Gabrielli & Francesco Sylos Labini, 2014. "The Scientific Competitiveness of Nations," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 9(12), pages 1-11, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:plo:pone00:0113470
    DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0113470

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Cesar A. Hidalgo & Ricardo Hausmann, 2009. "The Building Blocks of Economic Complexity," Papers 0909.3890,
    2. Matthieu Cristelli & Andrea Gabrielli & Andrea Tacchella & Guido Caldarelli & Luciano Pietronero, 2013. "Measuring the Intangibles: A Metrics for the Economic Complexity of Countries and Products," PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science, vol. 8(8), pages 1-20, August.
    3. Gunnar Sivertsen & Birger Larsen, 2012. "Comprehensive bibliographic coverage of the social sciences and humanities in a citation index: an empirical analysis of the potential," Scientometrics, Springer;Akadémiai Kiadó, vol. 91(2), pages 567-575, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Houcemeddine Turki & Mohamed Ali Hadj Taieb & Mohamed Ben Aouicha & Ajith Abraham, 2020. "Nature or Science: what Google Trends says," Scientometrics, Springer;Akadémiai Kiadó, vol. 124(2), pages 1367-1385, August.
    2. Houcemeddine Turki & Mohamed Ali Hadj Taieb & Mohamed Ben Aouicha & Ajith Abraham, 0. "Nature or Science: what Google Trends says," Scientometrics, Springer;Akadémiai Kiadó, vol. 0, pages 1-19.
    3. Henry Laverde-Rojas & Juan C. Correa, 2019. "Can scientific productivity impact the economic complexity of countries?," Scientometrics, Springer;Akadémiai Kiadó, vol. 120(1), pages 267-282, July.
    4. Jesper W. Schneider & Thed Leeuwen & Martijn Visser & Kaare Aagaard, 2019. "Examining national citation impact by comparing developments in a fixed and a dynamic journal set," Scientometrics, Springer;Akadémiai Kiadó, vol. 119(2), pages 973-985, May.
    5. Vito D. P. Servedio & Paolo Butt`a & Dario Mazzilli & Andrea Tacchella & Luciano Pietronero, 2018. "A new and stable estimation method of country economic fitness and product complexity," Papers 1807.10276,, revised Oct 2018.

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