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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
news
News
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
science
Sport
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League - but Mourinho is short of strikers
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
News
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
i100
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Environment
Sudan, the last male northern white rhino
environmentThe death of a white northern rhino in Kenya has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
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

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells