Eighteen out of 23 highly cited researchers come from abroad

There are 23 Norwegian-based researchers on the Clarivate list of the most highly cited researchers in the world, but 18 of them or 78% come from other countries. Five are from the United States, two each from China, Australia and Spain and one each from Ghana, the Netherlands, Singapore, Sweden, Ireland, the United Kingdom and France.

Samuel Asumadu Sarkodie, a doctoral grant holder at Nord University Business School, is the only PhD student among the 23.

Sarkodie has published 20 scientific articles in all during the two year period 2020-21. He told Forskerforum, the Norwegian researchers’ magazine, that his research field of economy and climate is “hot” and that he is writing summaries of his research in the net-based publication The Conversation, which he said is a good way of making his research more known internationally.

Six out of the 23 are women, of whom four are international.

Eleven of the 18 international scholars are working at universities, including four at the University of Oslo, four at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, and one each at the University of the Arctic, Nord University and at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences. Ten of the 18 international scholars are listed as cross-scientific scholars.

Compared to the other Nordic countries, Norway has by far the highest proportion of foreigners among the most highly cited researchers in the world. Sweden has 10 out of 45 (22%), Denmark has 12 out of 55 (21%), Finland nine out of 19 (47%) and Iceland has only one Icelandic researcher on the list in 2021.

Forskerforum has also reported that a survey has found that foreign country researchers in Norway are working significantly higher work hours per week compared to Norwegians.

The findings from Clarivate will add to the ongoing heated debate on how many researchers from abroad should be employed at Norwegian higher education institutions. The debate has been going on since researcher Cecilie Hellestveit raised the issue two months ago, as reported by University World News.

Professor Nils Christian Stenseth, director of the Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis at the University of Oslo, who was the vice president or president of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters from 2009 to 2014, told University World News: “I’m not surprised that there is a majority of non-Norwegian researchers on the published list of highly cited authors. Although there are many hard-working and highly dedicated Norwegian scientists, I do observe that quite a few non-Norwegians are much more hard-working and dedicated.

“Being seen (or cited) internationally implies that you are contributing to the common international knowledge platform. To do so requires hard work – just like it requires hard work for sports people to win international competitions.

“In my view, we can’t consider being a scientist as an ordinary job, it is a lifestyle, just like it is for sports people. In my view we need the non-Norwegian scientists here in Norway – in a way they can serve as role models for their Norwegian colleagues.”

Hellestveit told University World News that the increasingly precarious nature of researchers’ positions is driving them to work harder to make sure they have their citation accounts in order.

“The rise of an international precariat among academics is pushing researchers to look for work abroad, and a sense of harsh individual competition is increasingly driving academics. Does this result in good science? I am not so sure. But it does give us very efficient producers of scientific articles.

“But this highly competitive environment largely clashes with the current education system and working culture in Norway, which is not primarily directed at global competition of this type. It is difficult to find a good balance here.

“However, I think that we all agree on the aim – to attract the best minds from Norway and abroad, and to provide them with working conditions that enable them to produce important science of high quality, relevant for the enormous challenges of our time.”

Professor Ole Petter Ottersen, president of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, told University World News: “By having open borders we expose ourselves to international competition. This may be tough, but the alternative is much worse. Competition breeds quality and is an antidote to misplaced complacency.

“Science thrives on a richness of perspectives which is exactly what we get when welcoming researchers from abroad. The present citation analysis comes with no surprise: scientists recruited from other countries do not lag behind their domestic peers when it comes to performance. In fact, it might very well be that the opposite is true.”

Sabita Maharjan, associate professor at the University of Oslo, and senior research scientist at Simula Metropolitan Center for Digital Engineering – who is also one of the six women on the Clarivate list – told University World News: “It is a form of validation from the scientific community how important the work is and provides motivation to do more and better work.”

Societal impact of research

When pressed by University World News, Maharjan, who is from Nepal but has Norwegian citizenship, said she believes there are several reasons why she is on the list.

“First and foremost, it is the research problems that you address. My research area is energy informatics focusing primarily on green energy systems (including digitalisation of the energy sector) and green communication and computation networks.

“Energy efficiency and sustainability lie at the core of my research, high priority areas in terms of the societal impact for the next 30 to 40 years.

“In addition, our vision towards the most important research problems in this area that we would like to address, and the solutions we develop play a key role in the recognition and thus the scientific or societal impact of our work.”

She said equally important is the choice of journals, conferences and other media for dissemination.

“We send out our work to high impact journals and conferences where you certainly face tough competition, but if you do good work, eventually you will see the impact through such avenues.”