The expanding research landscape of Latin America

Analysts at the Institute for Scientific Information report on the research profiles of 34 countries in South and Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

Latin America is a broad and diverse region that includes not only South America but also Central America, Mexico and parts of the Caribbean. In our latest Global Research Report, we assess the research profile of 34 countries in this wide region – with a climate and landscape which ranges from Tierra del Fuego, through the Amazon and the heights of the Andes, to the rich rainforests of Central America.
It is a region of exceptional ecological significance and has been a source of products and innovation with economic and social impact for centuries. For example:

  • ancient Mesoamericans discovered how to process latex for domestic and sporting use as long ago as 1500 BCE[1];
  • a visit to the Galápagos Islands off Ecuador inspired Charles Darwin to develop his Theory of Evolution;
  • an Argentinian policeman was the first to use fingerprints to solve a murder; and
  • Brazil has been the leader in developing biofuels for powered flight.

Uncovering strengths and opportunities

We explored in another recent Global Research Report how subject diversity in a region’s research portfolio contributes to stability, resilience and innovation in its ecological and economic systems. In Latin America, research subject diversity has risen in most of the larger countries, driven both by domestic growth and by international collaboration, but our analysis also reveals that regional collaboration is uniformly low.

The Institute for Scientific Information (ISI)™ identifies the need for a trans-national research organization. Pooling some part of national resources could drive shared programs and projects to mutual benefit, accelerating the pace of innovation across the region.

The goal of this report is to understand the scientific research landscape in the region. In the case of Brazil, we can see that it is the most collaborative country within the region, with 127,400 total collaborative papers in the last 10 years, and by far the largest research producer overall. The analysis also sheds light on activity in recent years, giving the opportunity to define new priorities, understand the changes that have happened and illuminate the way for progressive improvement in research impact.


 – Deborah Dias, Regional Solutions Consultant, Clarivate, Brazil

This analysis shows us that Latin America as an emerging market has evolved positively in terms of high-impact research in the last decade. There is a noticeable growth in the scientific research done by each country, but it is imperative not to confuse the success of a nation by focusing only on the amount of scientific production generated. There are countless ways to measure the performance of something or someone, but the most basic instruments to measure the research in science are production and impact. On one hand, production tells us about the economic capacity and number of researchers that are willing to use the available resources to generate scientific literature. On the other hand, impact is the amount of interest and influence generated by published projects. From my point of view, in a region where science budgets are shrinking every day, being able to make an in-depth analysis and identify those projects with the greatest future is the key to improving performance as a nation.


– Fernando Franco, Regional Solutions Consultant, Clarivate, Latin America


Our report demonstrates there are many challenges, common to many countries. We uncover significant potential benefits for the creation of a regional research organization to enable further research growth, training and capacity building to tackle common challenges across the region. The European research framework has undoubtedly boosted achievement and is a model that could work equally well in Latin America.

To understand the research landscape of Latin America, read the full report.

Download report

[1] Dorothy Hosler, Sandra L. Burkett & Michael J. Tarkanian. (1999). Prehistoric polymers: rubber processing in ancient mesoamerica. Science, 284(5422), 1988-1991.