Felix de Moya Anegon.
Nowadays, georeferenced maps of science are becoming widely used in a number of ways in Research Analysis and Evaluation, because of their ability to represent context information; see for instance Beauchesne’s captivating images in his post on Maps of scientific collaboration between researchers or Bornmann & Waltman’s geographical density maps. There are many more examples. However I will be posting on a different kind of map: a Scientific Collaboration Map that overtakes issues regarding the topographical rigidity exhibited by the former. The proposed maps represent the nearly 3,000 Research Institutions which account for about 80% of the world scientific output.
In the picture, institutions are linked one another based on Research Collaboration as stated on paper affiliations (the list of institutions in the chart is exactly the same to the one used to elaborate the Scimago Institutions Rankings World Report 2010) According to the algorithm used to make the picture, collaboration links act as gravitational forces in such a way that the closeness between nodes (and clusters) represents collaboration strength; each node represents an institution and colors symbolize world regions.
Scientific collaboration tends to take place among neighbors (preferably but not exclusively) so one might expect that a graph illustrating collaboration links among Research Institutions should group them into regions, as in the figure. This regional cluster formations, besides highlighting intra-regional vs inter-regional collaboration strength, helps us analyze the degree of centrality reached by the different regions of the world within the global network of Research Institutions. You can observe not only size differences in regional sub-networks but also how “central” are different regions within scientific knowledge generation and communication processes.
Reputed vs. Emerging Science
In these kind of representations, centered positions tends to reflect higher reputation levels while peripheral ones imply larger local collaboration patterns. As a consequence, researchers belonging to centered institutions are requested to collaborate by researchers from all around the world.
As it was to be expected Research Institutions from Northern America (USA and Canada) and Europe compete for central positions. These regions have intense research collaboration links as the wide contact front between institutions from both regions highlights. Meanwhile, the self-organizational system of World Science keeps on pushing outwards to traditionally peripheral regions (Asia, Latin America, Middle East and Africa) despite these regions currently exhibit larger Growth Rates than central ones.
In fact, despite the impressive increasingly important role played by Asia in Global Research Outputs, mainly due to Chinese Science grown, their institutions are still far from reaching the reputation levels achieved by some European and Northern American’s Research Institutions, hence the outlying position showed by the Asian Cluster. It is so, even though Asia and Northern America have strong collaborations links affecting many Asiatic Countries.
Latin America, Oceania and Middle East
These regions maintain priority collaboration links, at a regional scale, with at least two regions each. Latin America with Europe –mainly Spain and Portugal- and Northern America; in this case the picture shows that Latin America – Europe collaboration links are so intense that the boundary between both regions is not well defined in the map. Similarly, the deep links that Australian and New Zeeland Research Institution has with Northern American counterparts lead to the blurred boundaries observed in the map between Oceania and Northern American Regional Clusters.
The Middle East region deserves an isolated view. It is the unique region divided into two separated areas in the map. Arabic countries are placed at the bottom of the map primarily connected to Europe, mainly East Europe (white nodes), and a lesser extent to Asia and Northern America; while Israel sets itself in the junction of Europe, Northern America and Latin America.
The overlapping nodes from Western and Eastern Europe depict only one research cluster for Europe; suggesting there is not Western Europe separated from Eastern Europe in terms of Research Collaboration.
African Institutions share their collaboration links between Europe and Middle East.
Japanese Institutions fit their institutional links among the Northern American collaboration web.
It turns out obvious that the relative weight of Biomedicine and Health Sciences is very important in this kind of representation given the skewed thematic distribution shown by the world research output and the fact that all those papers with authors belonging to the same institutions are excluded. In the future will be appropriate to carry out more thorough analyses devoted to concrete scientific fields where possible collaboration pattern differences are highlighted, meanwhile this post can serve as a discussion provoking contribution.