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fact sheet
11 April 2019

Development of the scientific research profile of the Netherlands

Citatie-impactscore Publicaties Internationale vergelijking
Dutch scientific research has developed strongly in recent years in the fields of Health sciences, Behaviour & Social Sciences, and Economics. There has been an increase in the citation impact in those fields and in the relative extent of the volume of publications. In Agricultural sciences, Natural sciences, and Engineering, the citation impact has remained good, but the Netherlands – like other Western countries – has lost ground due to the surge in Chinese research. In 2016 the Netherlands had the smallest proportion of publications compared to other countries in the fields of Natural sciences and Engineering and the largest proportion in the field of Health sciences.

The citation impact indicates the extent to which reference is made to scientific publications. The more an article is cited, the higher its scientific impact.

This fact sheet discusses differences in citation impact and publication volume between different scientific fields. The fields of Humanities and Law have not been included because no reliable conclusions can be drawn on the basis of the data for those fields. We compare the Netherlands with 17 reference countries, over the period from 2000‑2003 (indicated by “2003”) to 2013-2016 (indicated by “2016”).

This fact sheet is based on publication and citation data from the citation index system drawn up by the Centre for Science and Technology Studies (CWTS), which is based on raw data from Web of Science. The data provides an indication of developments, but does not give a complete picture of all aspects relevant to the quality and extent of Dutch science.

Research profile of the Netherlands

The figure below compares the citation impact score with an indicator of volume: the percentage of Dutch articles in the total number of articles in a given scientific field. The arrows indicate the profile for each field in 2003 and in 2016. To give a clear indication of the trend in development over that period, a straight line has been drawn between 2003 and 2016 (a diagram in the appendix shows the actual development over time).

Development of the Dutch research profile
Source: CWTS citation index system, based on raw data from Web of Science. Notes to this graph: In the Netherlands it is customary to classify education and research in nine “HOOP” fields. “HOOP” is the Dutch abbreviation for “Higher Education and Research Plan”. The present publication reports on six HOOP fields. Two HOOP fields have not been included: for Law, the number of publications in the Web of Science database is too low to be able to make reliable statements, while for Humanities only a small proportion of scholarly publications are included. Education is included in the HOOP field of Behaviour & Social Sciences. Behaviour & Social Sciences and Economics are marked with an asterisk in the graph because a relatively small proportion of the citations for these fields are to be found in Web of Science (Van Leeuwen, 2013).

Development of citation impact score

The above graph shows a number of trends:

  • The Netherlands is doing very well. The citation impact score for all fields in 2016 is well above the global average (1.0).
  • The citation impact was increasing for almost all fields over the entire period. The exceptions are the Agricultural and Natural sciences, where the citation impact fluctuates over the entire period but remains broadly the same.
  • The greatest development was in the fields of Economics and Behaviour & Social Sciences.

A similar picture is apparent from the proportion of publications that are among the top 10% most cited publications worldwide: all the fields score (well) above average and show an increase over the entire period. The exception is once again Agricultural sciences, which remains more or less the same.

In short, the Netherlands has developed in such a way that all the scientific fields now score well above the global average.

 

Development in volume

As regards the relative proportion of publications, the Netherlands shows an increase in the scientific fields of Behaviour & Social Sciences, Health sciences, and Economics and a decrease in Agricultural sciences, Natural sciences, and Engineering. The rise of China plays a major role in this decline. The proportion of Chinese publications in the fields of Agricultural sciences, Natural sciences, and Engineering increased more sharply between 2003 and 2016 than in the reference countries, namely by 21, 21 and 25 percentage points respectively. As a result, the proportion of Agricultural sciences, Natural sciences, and Engineering publications is declining in a large majority of the reference countries.

The graph above is repeated in the appendix but there China is excluded when calculating the proportion represented by Dutch publications. The proportion of Dutch Agricultural sciences, Natural sciences, and Engineering publications then remains roughly the same: Agricultural sciences goes from 3.5% to 3.7%; Natural sciences from 2.5% to 2.4%; Engineering from 2.2% to 2.3%. In the field of Health, the proportion of Dutch publications without China in fact rises more sharply, from 3.1% to 3.7% of the production of the reference countries.

In the following sections, we discuss the citation impact score and the proportion of Dutch publications in greater detail by making explicit comparisons with the reference countries.

Citation impact score: comparison with reference countries

In 2016, the Netherlands was in the top 5 of reference countries with the highest citation impact score for all scientific fields. In the table below, the position of the Netherlands in each field is underlined. Striking points are:

  • In 2016, the Netherlands had the highest citation impact score for Behaviour & Social Sciences of all countries.
  • In Economics and Agricultural sciences, the Netherlands ranked second after the United States and the United Kingdom respectively.
  • In Health and Natural sciences, the Netherlands ranked third in 2016, in both cases after the United Kingdom and Switzerland.
  • In Engineering, the Netherlands ranked fifth.
  • The only other country in the top 5 for all fields in 2016 was the United Kingdom.
Plaatje hoogste MNCS ENG
Source: CWTS citation index system, based on raw data from Web of Science.

Development of the position of the Netherlands

If we look at the development of the citation impact score since 2003 as compared to the reference countries, then the following trends are apparent:

  • The Netherlands has developed strongly in the fields of Behaviour & Social Sciences, and Economics: in 2003 it was in 7th and 8th place, respectively.
  • For Agricultural sciences, the Netherlands was in the top 3 over the entire period.
  • In 2003, the Netherlands ranked 5th for Health, first in the period 2010-2013, and then fell back slightly into third place in 2016.
  • For Natural sciences, the Netherlands was second or third in the entire period.
  • For Engineering, the Netherlands was in or about 5th place over the entire period.

Citation impact at discipline level 

As regards scientific disciplines, the Netherlands scored (well) above the global average in 2016 in almost all disciplines. There are four disciplines for which the citation impact score fell by more than 10%, all within the “STEM” fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics):

  • Computer science
  • Electrical engineering
  • Mathematics
  • Instruments and instrumentation

The appendix contains the data at discipline level.

Publication output: comparison with reference countries

The graph below shows the percentage distribution of publications by country across the scientific fields in 2016, ranked by the proportion for Natural sciences and Engineering (combined). It is immediately apparent that the Netherlands has the smallest proportion of Natural sciences and Engineering publications. It is also apparent that the Netherlands has the largest proportion of Health publications. Except for the United Kingdom, the Netherlands also has the largest proportion of publications in Behaviour & Social Sciences.

Over the period from 2003 to 2016, the number of publications for the Netherlands increased in all scientific fields. That increase was far less, however, for Natural sciences, Agricultural sciences, Engineering, and Health sciences than for Behaviour & Social Sciences and Economics. Growth in the number of publications for Behaviour & Social Sciences, Economics, and Health sciences was also faster in the Netherlands than the average for the reference countries.

On average, however, publications for Engineering, Agricultural sciences, and Natural sciences increased more strongly in the reference countries than in the Netherlands. The data shows the powerful influence of China. Over the period as a whole, the total number of Chinese publications increased by almost 600%, far more than in other countries.

If we exclude China, then we see that Dutch publications increased more than the average for all scientific fields except Natural sciences. Dutch Natural sciences publications increased by 29%, while the average increase for the reference countries, excluding China, was 33%.

Publication output at discipline level

A similar picture is apparent as regards volume growth for the disciplines. Dutch publications in all the social sciences are increasing more strongly than in the reference countries. For all “(natural) sciences and technical” disciplines, the increase is stronger in the reference countries. Even if we exclude China, the increase in the vast majority of “(natural) sciences and technical” disciplines is stronger in the reference countries.

The “life sciences and health” disciplines display a mixed picture. For example, whereas the Netherlands has increased more (116%) in Health Sciences than the reference countries, those countries have increased more (118%) in the field of Fundamental medical sciences.

More information about the disciplines is provided in the appendix.

In conclusion

We see that the citation impact score has risen most strongly since 2003 in the fields of Behaviour & Social Sciences, Economics, and Health sciences. The proportion of publications in relation to the reference countries has also increased for these fields.

Compared to other countries, the Netherlands published the most in the field of Health in 2016 and also – except for the United Kingdom – the most in the field of Behaviour & Social Sciences. For Agricultural sciences, Natural sciences, and Engineering, the citation impact score in 2003 was already well above the global average, and has since remained more or less the same. The proportion of publications as compared to other countries has decreased, mainly due to the strong rise of Chinese science. If we exclude China, the Netherlands’ proportion remains roughly the same. Compared to other countries, the Netherlands published the least in 2016 in the field of Natural sciences and Engineering.

It is difficult to explain the observed differences between the fields in greater detail. This is partly because it is not possible to combine data on publications with (international) figures on FTEs or expenditure because different classifications are used and because the correlation can vary greatly between the different fields.

In order to give a rough indication, we looked at Dutch public-sector R&D expenditure divided across four units: “humanities/social sciences”, “(natural) sciences”, “agricultural sciences”, and “medical sciences”. Data is only available for the period 2007-2015. We then see that R&D expenditure on “agricultural sciences” has risen by 21% and on “(natural) sciences” by 24%, but that expenditure on “humanities/social sciences” and “medical” research has increased more sharply, by 40% and 49% respectively (Eurostat figures). This corroborates the picture of the developments in Dutch science as outlined in this fact sheet.

About the data

  • The data was generated by Leiden University’s Centre for Science and Technology Studies (CWTS), for the Sector Plan on Physics and Chemistry. The Rathenau Instituut was involved in the request of the data and received the data.
  • The publication and citation data comes from the citation index system drawn up by the CWTS, which is based on raw data from Web of Science. The categories “journal article” and “review” were taken into consideration. In the case of data on scientific publications, it is customary to take periods of four years into account so as to absorb major outliers. Each year in this fact sheet therefore comprises a period of four years, for example 2016 concerns the period from 2013 to 2016.
  • The figures have been standardised for each field, i.e. corrected for differences in citation culture between fields. The data is based on “fractional counting”; this means that in the case of a collaborative publication, citations are distributed among the authors using fractional counting. This is in contrast to the “full counting” method, in which a collaborative publication is counted fully for each author and therefore has greater weight depending on the number of authors. With “fractional counting”, a publication with several authors counts for as much as a publication with only a single author (see Waltman and Van Eck, 2015). With full counting, the citation impact score for all fields turns out higher. The fields of Behaviour & Social Sciences, Economics, and Health sciences then still show the greatest increases and the picture for the position of the Netherlands in relation to the other countries is comparable for all fields. Full counting data are also included in the appendix.
  • The data is available at HOOP field level and at discipline level. The discipline-level figures cannot be aggregated to HOOP field level.
  • In the case of information on the number of publications, we compared the Netherlands with 17 reference countries: Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Norway, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and United States. The Netherlands is often compared to these countries in scientific terms. The citation impact score says something about the position of the Netherlands in relation to all countries in the world.
  • For the country abbreviations, please refer to the Definitions for Science in Figures webpage.

Sources

  • CWTS citation index system, which is based on raw data from Web of Science: database
  • Eurostat
  • Van Leeuwen, T.N. (2013). Bibliometric research evaluations, Web of Science and the social sciences and humanities: a problematic relationship? BibliometriePraxis und Forschung, Vol. 2 DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5283/bpf.173
  • Walkman, L. and N.J. van Eck (2015). Field-normalized citation impact indicators and the choice of an appropriate counting method. In: Journal of lnformetrics 9, p. 872–894. Elsevier.