Despite Japan’s stagnant science output during the past decade, citation impact at top end remains strong: Web of Science insight

Computer science, molecular biology and immunology show largest declines, but world-class research and researchers still found in select specialties

PHILADELPHIAMarch 22, 2017  — A recent analysis of the Clarivate Analytics Web of Science™ data, which has surveyed Japan’s research performance during the last decade, shows a marked decline in Japan’s scientific output and a failure to keep pace with other leading nations. This finding is reported in The Nature Index, which explores the consequences of Japan’s lagging performance and discusses what government policymakers and funders are doing now in an attempt to reverse the downward trend.

In 2015, Japanese researchers published about 600 fewer papers in the internationally influential journals indexed in the Web of Science than in 2005. While the decrease is less than 1%, the country’s share of global papers dropped from 8.4% to 5.2%. With publication volume accelerating in China and South Korea in Web of Science journals, and at a rate of growth faster than nations with mature science bases, world share of the United States, the United KingdomGermany and Japan can be expected to decline, since percent of global output is a zero-sum game.

Japan is a special case because, in absolute terms, it’s not growing either,” says David Pendlebury, senior citation analyst with Clarivate Analytics. “In 11 fields, Japan published fewer articles in 2015 than in 2005. In materials science and engineering, strong areas for Japan historically, its publications fell by more than 10%. The most acute declines were in biochemistry and molecular biology, computer science and, a traditionally strong area for Japan, immunology.” Astronomy was the only field in which Japan outperformed the average.

Pendlebury notes, however, that Japan still has many world-class scientists, and the nation is at the forefront of a variety of specialty, leading-edge areas. “There are always different stories to be found concerning research activity and performance as one drills down into the data, sort of like peeling an onion skin.”

For example, data from InCites™, an analytics tool and part of the Web of Science, shows that as a proportion of Japan’s output, papers that rank in the top 10% by citations has been steady during the last decade. Papers that rank in top 1% in citation impact have actually increased some 25%. Even a field such as immunology, which has shrunk in output by a third in the last 10 years, has seen increased production of top 1% papers as a proportion of its output, from 19% to 26% more than expected.

Pendlebury also cites specific examples of Japan’s scientific elite: Susumu Kitagawa of Kyoto University, who created flexible metal-organic frameworks; Yoshinori Tokura of the University of Tokyo, at the forefront of research in multiferroics and strongly correlated electron systems; and Masatake Haruta of Tokyo Metropolitan University, a pioneer in catalyst by gold. “Clarivate Analytics has named these three – and others from Japan – as Citation Laureates, researchers whose publications have been so highly cited that we expect they may be in line for Nobel honors,” he says.

“Careful analysis of publication and citation data represents a data-driven approach to science policymaking and funding and can be a key strategy for addressing weaknesses and building on strengths,” says Pendlebury.

“We understand how important it is to use accurate, unbiased data and cited references, which uncover meaningful insights into research performance, the progression of an idea or scientific discovery and the influence of innovative ideas over the years,” said Jessica Turner, global head of scientific and academic research at Clarivate Analytics. “For more than 50 years, we have been serving the scientific and academic research communities by providing trusted citation data, comprehensive citation analysis, as well as more than 30 years of bibliometric expertise. We are pleased that the Nature Index is using our Web of Science citation data and bespoke analyses to uncover significant findings for their special report on Japan.”

Learn more about the Web of Science.

Clarivate Analytics
Clarivate™ Analytics accelerates the pace of innovation by providing trusted insights and analytics to customers around the world, enabling them to discover, protect and commercialize new ideas faster. Formerly the Intellectual Property and Science business of Thomson Reuters, we own and operate a collection of leading subscription-based businesses focused on scientific and academic research, patent analytics and regulatory standards, pharmaceutical and biotech intelligence, trademark protection, domain brand protection and intellectual property management. Clarivate™ Analytics is now an independent company with over 4,000 employees, operating in more than 100 countries and owns well‐known brands that include Web of Science™, Cortellis™, Thomson Innovation™, Derwent World Patents Index™, CompuMark™, MarkMonitor® and Techstreet™, among others. For more information, please visit

SOURCE Clarivate Analytics

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