Canada at 150: The Canadian research landscape

By Joshua Schnell,Director of Research Analytics, Clarivate Analytics;  Ann Beynon, Manager, Solution Specialists, North America, Clarivate Analytics and Steve Revucky, Solutions Specialist, Clarivate Analytics 

As Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary, 2017 offers an opportunity to explore Canadian scientific accomplishments over the years and examine the nation’s future potential on the world research stage.

In observance of this milestone, Clarivate Analytics presents a report featuring quantitative analysis of Canada’s research output and impact, examining the country’s rich scientific legacy and evaluating its opportunities for the future.

The complete report, drawing upon Clarivate’s Web of Science and other evaluative tools, is available for download here.

With a similar goal of assessing Canadian research, the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Canadian Minister of Science, launched an independent panel to review the funding landscape for scientific research at the federal level, to recommend how to optimize support for such research efforts, and to mitigate existing challenges for Canadian researchers. The results of this initiative, commonly known as the “Naylor report” after the panel’s chairman, C. David Naylor of the University of Toronto, were made public on April 10, 2017 and can be found at “Canada’s Fundamental Science Review.”

The Clarivate report aims not to replicate the analysis done in the Naylor report, but rather to delve more deeply into the bibliometric data related to Canadian research. Canada, the second largest country by total area, boasts a rich history of scientific discovery and is home to some of the world’s leading institutions of higher learning, producing 25 Nobel Laureates to date (by birth or affiliation), representing the full range of fields covered by science’s highest award. Scientific breakthroughs in Canada in the past 150 years have had far-reaching effects not only within Canada, but for people all over the world. This report uses quantitative analysis of research output and impact to explore the rich scientific legacy of Canada and opportunities for the future.

Overview of recent Canadian research performance

To provide a brief sample of the report: We start by exploring Canadian research performance over the last 10 years as compared to other member nations of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The OECD serves as an appropriate benchmark when comparing Canadian research papers to global research. This first chart (Chart 1) looks at the pace of research output over the last 10 years, normalized to the 2006 output (2006 output = 100%). While Canada and the OECD increased their research production at approximately the same pace from 2006 to 2013, after 2013, Canada’s research production was increasing at a more rapid pace, with a six percentage point difference in output, when comparing 2015 to 2006.

CHART 1: Historical Research Output Production, 2006-2015 (Base year 2006)
Source: Incites

While it is important to note that Canadian research output has been growing in the last decade, indeed faster than that of OECD countries in total, it is equally important to understand the impact of this work. The most common bibliometric indicator of research impact is normalized citation impact. The Category Normalized Citation Impact (CNCI) of a document is calculated by dividing the actual count of citations received by the expected citation rate for documents with the same document type, year of publication and subject area. The CNCI of a set of documents (for example, the collected works of an individual, institution, or country) is the average of the CNCI values for all the documents in the set. A CNCI of 1.0 represents the global average citation performance. Chart 2 below shows the historical trend of Canadian research impact over the last 10 years. The CNCI of Canada is compared to the CNCI for all OECD countries over the past 10 years. Research produced by Canada in this time span has a higher impact than the OECD taken as a whole. This signifies that Canada’s research has an above-average impact when compared to the rest of the OECD nations.

CHART 2: Historical Category Normalized Citation Impact 2006 – 2015
Source: Incites

A series of metrics

There are many ways to analyze the scientific impact and reach of Canadian research over the past 150 years. Bibliometric and citation analysis offer one way to examine the work produced by Canadian researchers and their collaborators, and to evaluate the fields demonstrating the most impactful research. In any type of evaluation, one must use a series of metrics to give a full picture of the research undertaken.

By any measure, one cannot underestimate the importance of Canadian research in the past 150 years, and the future for new developments looks bright. The Canada’s Fundamental Science Review report from Naylor and colleagues provides a series of recommendations on how Canada can remain competitive on the global stage for the next 150 years and beyond.

Bibliometric analysis provides a unique perspective on the conduct of science in Canada, and also provides insight into where science is headed. We hope that our analysis, combined with the findings of the Naylor report, will help Canadian research funders and academic institutions make the best investments and decisions to enhance research and scholarship within Canada and beyond. The full report further explores the impact of Canadian research in the areas of endocrinology, stem cells, and the environment, as well as exploring the impact of Canadian research produced in collaboration with corporate and international partners.