Exploring the impact of globalization on research in the United States

Our latest Global Research Report from the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI)™, “U.S. research trends: The impact of globalization and collaboration,” raises important questions about how well past investment has prepared the U.S. scientific enterprise to achieve its goals. Our findings suggest that while the U.S. remains a leading science and technology power, it must acknowledge its shrinking domestic research capacity and work collaboratively with resourceful competitors to maintain its position.

The U.S. has a diverse and extensive research landscape, with government agencies, universities, and private companies playing a significant role in funding and conducting research. For many years the U.S. has led in areas such as AI, biotech, space exploration and healthcare. The research landscape is highly competitive on the global stage, with a focus on driving innovation and making breakthroughs.

Our latest ISI Global Research Report draws on Web of Science™ data to shed light on the trajectory of research in the U.S. over the last 15 years. Our findings suggest that while the U.S. remains a leading science and technology power, it faces increasing competition from new science-based economies in Asia and an expanded EU network. Our report also raises questions about how past investment has prepared the U.S. scientific enterprise to achieve its goals.

Keeping pace with global science and technology R&D

Our data-driven analysis demonstrates that globalization is shaping the R&D landscape in the U.S. Key findings include:

  • U.S. research investment, domestic research student numbers, and the output of research articles and reviews have not grown at the same rate as other parts of the world – resulting in increasing competition from other countries and regions that have diversified and grown to challenge the U.S.’s historical strengths.
  • The U.S.’s research portfolio remains extensive and diverse, but its research subject diversity has declined due to the science budget expanding much faster in biomedicine than in technology areas.
  • The U.S. is strong but no longer dominates the research landscape as it did in the past. This is because other G7 nations are producing papers of the highest citation impact, while more U.S. papers are now of world average citation impact.

Silver linings: Spot the trends

One notable trend in the U.S. research landscape is the increasing importance of international research collaboration. Collaboration has become pervasive across the globe, with most of the growth in U.S. research output attributable to collaboration. Collaborative research has also helped to mitigate a decline in overall U.S. impact indicators.

  • U.S. research collaboration accounts for over 50% of output in most science/engineering areas and includes a diverse network of partners.
  • The physical sciences and technology areas are the subjects where the U.S. has the greatest degree of international collaboration and the smallest component of purely domestic research output.

Another trend is the shift towards greater equity in the distribution of research excellence, with a focus on addressing over-concentration of innovation and development resources in historically strong research areas. This has resulted in rising impact in U.S. states with historically low research output.

What comes next for U.S. research?

Our findings emphasize the need for the U.S. to acknowledge its shrinking domestic research capacity, particularly in engineering, and work pragmatically with resourceful competitors such as Mainland China.

Overall, while the U.S. research landscape is facing challenges from competitors, it remains a strong and influential player in the global research community. However, continued investment and collaboration will be necessary to maintain this position and address areas of weakness.

Complete the download form on the right to read the full report and find out more about the impact of globalization on the U.S. R&D landscape, or get in touch to talk to us about your research analytics, evaluation and management needs.