World-class research position retained – and challenged

Denmark is maintaining its world-class position in research and development, according to the 10th edition of the Research Barometer, a collection of indicators comparing Denmark to 35 other OECD countries, which the Ministry of Higher Education and Science published on 5 October.

The report focuses on research and development investments and the results and impact of this research. The many indicators and figures provide a rich information source for also comparing the other OECD countries to each other.

Agnete Gersing, the permanent secretary of the ministry, said on Twitter that Denmark is at “the absolute top with regard to research and to impact and relevance of scientific publications".

The main findings in the Research Barometer are:
  • • Denmark invested DKK66 billion (US$10 billion) in research in 2016, which accounts for 3.2% of the gross national product (GNP), and it ranks fourth among OECD countries based on % GNP investment in research, after Israel, South Korea and Switzerland.

  • • Denmark has the highest number of scientists in relation to the workforce in research in OECD countries, 14 per 1,000, followed by Sweden, Finland, South Korea and Ireland.

  • • Total number of publications (in the Scopus database) in 2013-17 was 116,000, which was 20,457 publications per million inhabitants, the fourth-highest among OECD countries, after Switzerland, Israel and Iceland.

  • • One in five (19.%) of the publications are among the 10% most cited in the world, placing Denmark second after Switzerland on this measure. Danish publications in the humanities are number one on this OECD list.

  • • Denmark has the highest proportion of scientific articles co-authored with business representatives in 2013-17, with 6.6%. Novo Nordisk, H Lundbeck and Novozymes are the companies with the largest collaboration with universities.

  • • 60% of Danish scientific publications were published with one or more international co-author. In 2013-17 a total of 3,000 publications were published in the most prestigious journals (measured by the Source Normalised Impact per Paper or SNIP score). Some 214 were published in Nature and 140 in Science. Only Israel and Switzerland had a higher impact factor. The main collaborators were in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands.

  • • 2,279 PhD candidates were awarded a degree in 2016, corresponding to 399 per million inhabitants, placing Denmark fourth, after Slovenia, Switzerland and the UK.
Søren-Peter Olesen, the director of the Danish National Research Foundation (DNFR), founded in 1991, which has funded more than 100 Danish research centres of excellence, said: "This year's research and investment indicators show that Denmark is one of the leading research nations worldwide, and we at DNRF are excited about the results. It is important to point out that society has to continue to prioritise research."

Professor Jens Oddershede, chair of the Danish Council for Research and Innovation Policy, told University World News: "Danish research being at a high level internationally has now been reconfirmed over many years, which is strengthening the belief that the basic structure and instruments in research are sustainable over time.

“The good research culture permeating the whole sector is another explanation of the high international level. The collaboration with the business sector is high which gives hope to the belief that this over the years will make even greater transformational impact upon societal developments."

Jesper Langergaard, director of Universities Denmark, the Danish rectors’ conference, told University World News that the current success of the Danish research system was a result of a number of initiatives from different stakeholders over the past 20 years, “not least, the public emphasis on and investment in research and innovation from the mid-2000s.”

He said in 2006 the Danish government rightly saw investments in research and innovation as key to maintaining and fostering growth, employment and competitiveness in Denmark.

At the time, under an agreement supported by parliament, 0.5% of GNP was transferred to higher education and research internationalisation and over the following six years nearly US$6 billion was invested in a range of activities, including increasing the intake of PhD students, which grew from 1,200 in 2006 to 2,600 in 2010.

“Their ambitions were accompanied by a number of strategic priorities made at universities as well as generous support from a number of private foundations, which have been instrumental in launching new and ground-breaking research initiatives and attracting international talent.”

However, he warned that in recent years public investments in research have dwindled.

“From investing 1.11% of GDP in research in 2013, Denmark now lurks around the 1% mark, and for the past three years the Danish government and the Ministry of Finance seem very insistent that Denmark will by no means outdo our international peers.

“This does not bode well for the continuation of the Danish success but we hope for change and that the government will once again see research as an investment in the future.”