Steve Connor: A Nobel effort that doesn't do us justice

Science Notebook: Britain ranks second only to the US in terms of the leading scientific indicators of productivity and efficiency

This is the time of year when a handful of scientists learn whether their work will be immortalised in the form of a Nobel prize. It is rightly considered the top award for physiology or medicine, chemistry and physics – mathematicians get their own prize in the form of the Fields Medal.

Britain has done relatively well in terms of Nobel prizes over the past century and this has often been used as a justification for believing that the country's science is rated highly compared with others. But how true is this?

Nobel prizes often celebrate work that took place decades ago, and Britain's recent medal count has not been quite as good as 30 or 40 years ago. Another problem with using Nobel prizes as a benchmark for success is that the vast amount of excellent-but-not-quite-Nobel-quality research doesn't get a look-in. A better measure would be to study the number of citations – references to previously published work – that British scientists receive from their peers worldwide.

Just such a study was recently commissioned by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the outcome looks pretty impressive for the UK.

According to the International Benchmarking Study of UK Research Performance 2009, Britain ranks second only to the US in terms of the leading scientific indicators of productivity and efficiency; and the country ranks first among the G8 nations in terms of the number of citations in relation to public spending on research and development.

The study analysed 8,000 of the world's leading scientific journals and found the UK share of citations in them was 12 per cent – second to the US. We also increased our share of the most cited, or top 1 per cent of the world's scientific papers, from 13.4 per cent last year to 14.4 per cent this year. We also did well in terms of citation impact, coming second to Germany but ahead of the US.

It's further evidence indicating that, when it comes to science, Britain punches above its weight.

Bees go under the microscope

The mystery about the dramatic decline of the honeybee population is to be addressed in a research project with £1m worth of funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. Bees of all kinds are vital of course for pollinating crops, and their decline is a serious threat to the human food supply. Official government figures suggest bee numbers have fallen by between 10 and 15 per cent over the past couple of years, but the British Beekeepers' Association suggests the true figure could be nearer to 30 per cent.

Scientists at Rothamsted Research in Hertfordshire and Warwick University are to work in partnership with Syngenta, the agrochemicals company, to find out what's behind the decline. No doubt one of the factors they will be studying in some detail is the new generation of insecticides sprayed over vast tracts of farmland.

News
people And here is why...
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
Voices
voicesBy the man who has
Sport
Arsene Wenger tried to sign Eden Hazard
footballAfter 18 years with Arsenal, here are 18 things he has still never done as the Gunners' manager
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson star in The Twilight Saga but will not be starring in the new Facebook mini-movies
tvKristen Stewart and Stephenie Meyer will choose female directrs
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
books(and not a Buzzfeed article in sight)
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Arts and Entertainment
Twerking girls: Miley Cyrus's video for 'Wrecking Ball'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran performs at his Amazon Front Row event on Tuesday 30 September
musicHe spotted PM at private gig
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

QA/BA - Agile

£400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are currently seekin...

PPA Supply Teachers

£121 - £142 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Early Years, KS1 & 2 Prima...

Primary Supply Teacher

£121 - £142 per annum: Randstad Education Luton: Early Years, KS1 & 2 Prim...

Primary Supply Teacher

£121 - £142 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Primary supply teacher Hertford...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?