Globalizing Science

February 1, 2011 • Volume 5, Issue 3
Are traditional scientific powerhouses losing their edge?
By Tom Price

Introduction

Thirty nations collaborated to build the Large Hadron Collider (European Organization for Nuclear Research/Maximilien Brice)
Thirty nations collaborated to build the Large Hadron Collider — the world's most powerful particle accelerator. A circular 17-mile tunnel straddling the border of Switzerland and France houses the gigantic atom-smasher, which will be used by 8,000 scientists, engineers and technicians from 60 countries. The $4 billion machine dramatically exemplifies the increasingly global pursuit of science. (European Organization for Nuclear Research/Maximilien Brice)

The United States, Europe and Japan are beginning to lose their traditional dominance in science and technology — not because they are doing less, but because the rest of the world is doing more. China, India, Southeast Asia, South Korea and Taiwan have all increased their share of patents, scholarly scientific articles, research-and-development spending and researchers, while the share held by the United States, European nations and Japan has declined. As developing countries mount their own research enterprises, the world of high technology is being transformed. China last year unveiled the world's fastest supercomputer, a distinction that had belonged to the United States and Japan. International scientific collaborations are on the upswing, Western universities are building branch campuses overseas, and multinational corporations are locating their research, development and high-tech manufacturing operations abroad. Most experts say traditional science powerhouses won't be replaced anytime soon by rapidly developing countries such as India and China, however, in part because those countries’ educational systems don't yet nurture innovation.

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