Cities of science

Is science the product of countries or of cities?The measurement of scientific production is usually done either at the country level (e.g., patents filed in a country for a given year) or at the organizational level (scientific papers published by a university). In a recent paper a team of Danish researchers used a different unit of analysis, namely urban conglomerations, and sketched the evolution between 1996-98 and 2004-06 (see table on the right).

Provided you evacuate the delicate question of what constitutes an urban conglomeration – here defined as distgances reachable by a 40-minute commute from a city centre – one finds the ‘usual suspects’ but one can’t fail to notice the new comer in the top 10, Beijing.

Actually if one scrolls further down the ranking, some of the other new kids on the block are Seoul, Teheran, Istanbul, Singapore and Sao Paolo.

Not surprisingly either, once you factor in the quality of research, i.e. the impact factor, the ranking looks different, this time with Boston on top and only two non-US (Paris and Tokyo) in the top 10.

1996-1998 2004-2006
London Tokyo-Yokohama
Tokyo-Yokohama London
San Francisco Bay Area San Francisco Bay Area
Paris Beijing
Osaka-Kobe Paris
Moscow New York
Boston Osaka-Kobe
New York Boston
Amsterdam-Hague-Rotterdam-Utrecht Amsterdam-Hague-Rotterdam-Utrecht
Los Angeles Los Angeles