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Conference on Higher Education in South Africa.

Regent Hotel, East London, South Africa, 22-24 November 2011

Knowledge generation through international research partnerships: Implications for South Africas international technology transfer efforts
Vuyani Lingela
Department of Science and Technology, Private Bag X 894, Pretoria 0001, South Africa Email: Vuyani.Lingela@dst.gov.za

Abstract
The purpose of this paper is to present the contribution of international research partnerships towards South Africas knowledge generation capacity and to identify international research partnerships that had a significant impact on South Africas knowledge generation capacity and those that are likely to have a significant impact in the future. The main conclusion drawn from this paper is that the share of scientific publications produced by South African researchers in collaboration with international researchers, as a percentage of the total number of publications, has increased from 12.8% in 1990 to 48.3% in 2010. Another conclusion is that collaboration between South African researchers with researchers from the United States and England is likely to remain very important for South Africas knowledge generation capacity. However, Brazil, China, Mexico, South Korea and India represent an emerging source of growth for South Africas knowledge generation capacity.

1. Introduction This paper is part of a study that aims to uncover the underlying reasons for the differences in the levels of productivity and influence of the South African scientific research in comparison to its international partners. Although the reasons cannot be uncovered in this preliminary study alone, the findings of this study will be used to identify countries that are performing better than South Africa in terms of scientific productivity and influence. Such high performing countries will be the subject of a subsequent in-depth study to uncover the reasons why South Africa is lagging behind. Such a study will include interviews with key personnel responsible for promoting scientific productivity and influence in high performing countries. Overall, this study will present international learning that can be adopted and adapted for the effective development and implementation of the science, engineering and technology human capital development strategy for South Africa. This paper also presents the experience of South Africa in generating knowledge through international research partnerships by examining the following two issues. It examines the contribution of international research partnerships towards South Africas knowledge generation capacity. It also examines international research partnerships that are likely to have a significant impact on South Africas knowledge generation capacity in the future. 2. Data and methods In order to assess the productivity and influence of the South African scientific research in comparison to its international partners, data presenting the total number of scientific publications produced in the most recent five years and the total numbers of citations associated with these publications were obtained from Thomson Reuters InCitesTM database on 21 September 2010. The number of research publications is used in this paper as a proxy indicator for scientific leadership. Countries that produce the highest numbers of scientific publications in specific scientific disciplines can be considered to be research leaders in those disciplines, while countries that produce the lowest numbers of scientific publications can be considered research followers. The number of citations is used as a proxy indicator for scientific influence

Conference on Higher Education in South Africa. Regent Hotel, East London, South Africa, 22-24 November 2011

because unique and original research of high scientific standing is expected to receive more citations than incremental research of low scientific standing. In addition, countries are assessed based on their global competitiveness ranking (Schwab, 2010; The World Bank Group, 2010). Data were obtained for each of the following 15 countries: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, Egypt, England, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, South Africa, South Korea, Tunisia and United States. The choice of countries is informed by the existing active international bilateral scientific and technological cooperation between these countries and South Africa. Further, these countries represent different levels of economic development, including developing countries such as Egypt, Tunisia and Argentina; emerging economies such as Mexico, Brazil India, China and South Korea; and developed economies such as Australia, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom, Germany and the United States. The different stages of economic development are important for this paper in order to enhance international learning. In order to assess the contribution and impact of international research partnerships towards South Africas knowledge generation capacity, data presenting the total number of scientific publications produced by South African researchers in collaboration with international researchers between 1990 and 2010 were obtained from Thomson Reuters InCitesTM database on 16 February 2011. The total numbers of scientific publications produced by South African researchers in collaboration with at least one international researcher between 1990 and 2010 were also obtained from Thomson Reuters on 24 March 2011. If South African researchers for example have published one paper in collaboration with one or more researchers from different countries, that accounts for one international collaboration. 3. Results 3.1 The level of productivity and influence of the scientific research The results presented in Figures 1 to 5 indicate that four developed economies, namely: United States, Japan, Germany and England, have produced scientific publications that had the most influence in the past five years. Even then, the United States remains far more superior in terms of scientific excellence. Australia, China and Italy have maintained high levels of scientific research. In some scientific disciplines, the influence of their research compares very well with the leading developed economies. For example, the influence of Chinese scientific publications in engineering and technology is much higher than that of Germany, Japan and England. The influence of Australian and Italian research in social sciences is much higher than that of Japan. Brazil, India and South Korea have produced scientific research that is more influential than research produced in developing countries such as such as Mexico, Argentina, South Africa, Egypt and Tunisia. This is particularly true for research in engineering and technology in South Korea. Further analyses indicate a statistically significant relationship between scientific leadership (number of scientific publications) and scientific influence (number of citations) in Figures 1 to 5. A very strong relationship between scientific leadership and scientific influence was observed in the following scientific disciplines: agricultural sciences (R = 0.980, P = 0.035); engineering and technology (R = 0.970, P = 0.041); medical and health sciences (R = 0.997, P = 0.003); natural sciences (R = 0.970, P = 0.031); and social sciences (R = 1, P = 0.000). These results suggest that the most influential countries in specific scientific discipliners are those that have attained scientific leadership in those disciplines.

Conference on Higher Education in South Africa. Regent Hotel, East London, South Africa, 22-24 November 2011

Number of publications 250,000 200,000 150,000 100,000 50,000


Mexico

Times Cited

0
South Africa Argentina Egypt Tunisia

Italy

Germany

India

Australia

Japan China England

Figure 1. Number and influence of scientific publications in agricultural sciences


Number of publications 1,400,000 1,200,000 1,000,000 800,000 600,000 400,000 200,000 0
South Africa Argentina Egypt Tunisia

Times Cited

Mexico

Italy

Germany

Australia

India

Japan

Figure 2. Number and influence of scientific publications in engineering and technology


Number of publications 6,000,000 5,000,000 4,000,000 3,000,000 2,000,000 1,000,000
Mexico

Times Cited

0
Argentina Egypt Tunisia

Italy

South Africa

Germany

India

Australia

Japan

Figure 3. Number and influence of scientific publications in medical and health sciences

United States

Brazil

South Korea

China

United States

Brazil

South Korea

England

United States

South Korea

Brazil

China

England

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Number of publications 7,000,000 6,000,000 5,000,000 4,000,000 3,000,000 2,000,000 1,000,000 0


South Africa Argentina Egypt Tunisia

Times Cited

Mexico

Italy

Germany England

India

Australia

Japan

Figure 4. Number and influence of scientific publications in natural sciences


Number of publications 700,000 600,000 500,000 400,000 300,000 200,000 100,000 0
Argentina Egypt Tunisia

Times Cited

Mexico

Italy

South Africa

Germany

India

Japan

Australia

Figure 5. Number and influence of scientific publications in social sciences As illustrated in Table1 (Schwab, 2010; The World Bank Group, 2010), the poor quality of health and primary education are some of the major challenges that South Africa has to overcome. The poor quality of health of the nation has a potential of reducing the average life expectancy of the nation. It might be an interesting subject for an independent research to find out the effects of the poor quality of health on South Africas scientific research leadership and influence. Unfortunately, South Africa does not seem to provide the required scientific leadership in the discipline of medical and health sciences in comparison to its international partners as illustrated in Figure 3. Considering the burden of infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, South Africa should be at the forefront of medical and health sciences research. Japan for example, a country that is prone to earthquake, is at the forefront of seismological research. Although the quality of higher education is relatively better than most developing countries, South Africa has a large room for improvement as illustrated by its higher education global competitiveness ranking in Table1.

United States

South Korea

Brazil

China

United States

Brazil

South Korea

China

England

Conference on Higher Education in South Africa. Regent Hotel, East London, South Africa, 22-24 November 2011

Table 1. Global Ranking Overall Global Competitiveness Ranking (2008/09)* 1 United States 7 Germany 9 Japan 12 England 13 South Korea 18 Australia 30 China 36 Tunisia 45 South Africa 49 Italy 50 India 60 Mexico 64 Brazil 81 Egypt Global Ranking in Health and Primary Education (2008/09)* 15 Australia 19 England 22 Japan 24 Germany 26 South Korea 27 Tunisia 30 Italy 34 United States 50 China 61 Argentina 65 Mexico 79 Brazil 88 Egypt 100 India Global Ranking in Higher Education and Training (2008/09)* 5 United States 12 South Korea 14 Australia 18 England 21 Germany 23 Japan 27 Tunisia 44 Italy 56 Argentina 57 South Africa 58 Brazil 63 India 64 China 74 Mexico 91 Egypt GDP per capita (current US$) (2009)# 46,436 United States 42,279 Australia 40,873 Germany 39,727 Japan 35,165 United Kingdom 35,084 Italy 17,078 Korea, Rep. 8,144 Mexico 8,114 Brazil 7,666 Argentina 5,798 South Africa 3,792 Tunisia 3,744 China 2,269 Egypt 1,134 India

Population (2009)# 1,331,460,000 China 1,155,347,678 India 307,007,000 United States 193,733,795 Brazil 127,560,000 Japan 107,431,225 Mexico 82,999,393 Egypt 81,879,976 Germany 61,838,154 United Kingdom 60,221,211 Italy 49,320,150 South Africa 48,747,000 Korea, Rep. 40,276,376 Argentina 21,874,900 Australia 10,432,500 Tunisia

88 Argentina 122 South Africa * Source: Schwab (2010) # Source: The World Bank Group (2010)

Conference on Higher Education in South Africa. Regent Hotel, East London, South Africa, 22-24 November 2011

The results presented in Figures 1 to 5 have implications for international research cooperation and technology transfer. For example, the Government of South Africa is implementing the Ten Year Innovation Plan which includes five Grand Challenges that build on and expand the countrys research capabilities (Minister Naledi Pandor, 2009). The first grand challenge is to tap the potential of the bio-economy for the pharmaceutical industry. South Africa could promote cooperation with leading countries in Figures 1 and 3 in order to exploit its biodiversity resource base, and develop a solid foundation of expertise for the establishment of a globally competitive pharmaceutical industry. The second grand challenge is to build on investments in space science and technology. South Africa could promote cooperation with leading countries in Figures 2 and 4 in order to grow and manage, in a coordinated fashion, its satellite industry and a range of innovations in space sciences, earth observation, communications and navigation for socio-economic benefits. The third grand challenge is to move towards the use of renewable energy. South Africa could promote cooperation with leading countries in Figures 2 and 4 in order to explore opportunities in clean coal technologies, nuclear energy, renewable energy and hydrogen and fuel cell technologies. The fourth grand challenge is to play a leading, regional role in climate change. South Africa could promote cooperation with leading countries in Figures 1, 2 and 4 in order to make a major contribution in the understanding of climate change, and offer modelled solutions to the world. The fifth and final grand challenge is termed human and social dynamics. South Africa could promote cooperation with leading countries in Figures 5 in order to increase the countrys ability to anticipate the complex consequences of change. 3.2 The relationship between scientific excellence and economic development In order to assess the implications of the results presented in Section 3.1 for economic development, I have explored the relationship between the level of influence of research and the level of economic development. In this paper, GDP per capita values obtained from The World Bank Group (2010) are used as proxy indicators for the level of nation economic development. Countries that have low GDP per capita are considered to be underdeveloped or developing economies. On the other hand, countries that have high GDP per capita are considered to be developed economies. In order to assess the relationship between scientific influence and economic development, I have aggregated all the citations presented for each country in Figures 1 to 5 and ranked each country low or high according to its level of scientific influence and its level of economic development relative to other countries. The results presented in Figure 6 indicate a strong relationship (R = 0.714, P = 0.218) between the level of economic development and the level of influence of scientific research. The most interesting results are the statistically outlying countries such as India, China and Australia. When they are excluded in Figure 6, the relationship between the level of economic development and the level of influence of scientific research is even stronger (R = 0.961, P = 0.002). An obvious reason for these differences can be attributed to large populations of India and China as illustrated in Table 1. Although the research influence of India and China is improving, and Chinas research leadership is comparable to developed economies, their levels of economic development have not adequately reached their large populations. The results presented in Figure 6 indicate that India and China have a tremendous economic potential because of the influence of scientific publications produced by the two countries. For example, India has potential to achieve the same or higher level of economic development (GDP per capita) as Brazil. China has a potential to attain the same level of economic development as developed economies such as Italy and 6

Conference on Higher Education in South Africa. Regent Hotel, East London, South Africa, 22-24 November 2011

Japan. Australia on the other hand is an excellent example of a smart resource based economy. This is a very unique economic position because most resource based economies tend to be research followers, without providing scientific leadership. Australia is an outstanding example of a country that has overcome the resource-curse paradox by maintaining high levels of economic development for its society as well as high levels of scientific leadership and influence.
GDP per capita (current US$) Predicted GDP per capita (current US$)

Australia

United States Japan UK Germany

Economic development

High
Italy Korea Mexico Brazil Argentina South Africa Tunisia

Low

China Egypt India

Low
Influence of Scientific Research

High

Figure 6. The relationship between scientific excellence and economic development

Economic Development

High

Resource Based Economies

Developed Economies

Low

Underdeveloped Economies & Developing Economies

Knowledge Based Economies

Low

High

Influence of Scientific Research

Figure 7. Framework for science and technology-led economic development The real world results presented in Figure 6 can be summarised into a strategic framework for economic development, underpinned by scientific leadership and influence as illustrated in Figure 7. This framework indicate that whereas developed economies consistently provide research leadership and produce scientific publications that have the most influence, developing economies consistently remain 7

Conference on Higher Education in South Africa. Regent Hotel, East London, South Africa, 22-24 November 2011

research followers. This framework also indicate that whereas knowledge based economies consistently enhance their research leadership and produce influential scientific research, resource based economies consistently depend on their natural resources for their economic development with very limited investment in scientific research. This is the resource-curse paradox that Austria has transcended. This framework also suggest a growth path from underdevelopment or resource dependency to knowledge dependency and finally to fully fledged development in all aspects of scientific and economic development. What sets knowledge economies apart from other economies is the presence of engineers and entrepreneurs who are willing to take risks and sustain efforts under adversity as well as the general ability of engineers to absorb foreign technology and the ability of workers to absorb new production processes (Odagiri and Goto, 1993). For example, what sets emerging economies such as China apart from other developing economies is the collective ability of its scientific, technical, engineering and managerial workforce to use their skills, national resources and leverage international resources to acquire and create technologies for the production of goods and services to meet national and global market needs. I have explored the issue of national technology capability (Lingela, 2009) in detail in a separate paper. Table 2. Relationship between scientific disciplines and economic development
Agricultural Engineering & Medical Natural Social GDP per capita Sciences Technology & Health Sciences Sciences (current US$) Agricultural Sciences 1.00 Engineering & Technology 0.99 1.00 Medical & Health 0.99 0.99 1.00 Natural Sciences 0.99 1.00 0.99 1.00 Social Sciences 0.97 0.96 0.99 0.97 1.00 GDP per capita 1.00 0.70 0.73 0.68 0.73 0.59 (current US$) Area

Further analyses that I have undertaken indicates a strong relationship between the influence of research in scientific disciplines presented in Table 2 and economic development. These results are based on the actual values presented in Figures 1 to 5 but exclude statistically outlying countries such India, China and Australia. An interesting observation is that the results indicate a relatively weak relationship between the influence of social sciences research and economic development. In this paper, I will not examine this problem but I recommend it as a subject for an independent scientific research to uncover the underlying reasons for a relatively weak relationship between research in social sciences and economic development. 3.3 The contribution international research partnerships International researchers are involved in research partnerships with South African researchers that have resulted in a number of scientific publications ranging from one publication per year, with researchers in countries such as Azerbaijan and Jamaica, to more than 1,000 publications per year with researchers in the United States. Overall, the numbers of scientific publications resulting from international research partnerships have grown on an annual basis from 518 publications in 1990 to 3,404 publications in 2010. These results indicate the increasing contribution of international collaborations towards South Africas knowledge generation capacity. As illustrated in Figure 8, the increase in the numbers of publications from 518 in 1990 to 3,404 in 2010 represent an increase from 12.8% in 1990 to 48.3% in 2010 in the share of scientific publications produced by South African researchers in

Conference on Higher Education in South Africa. Regent Hotel, East London, South Africa, 22-24 November 2011

collaboration with international researchers, as a percentage of the total number of publications produced by South African researchers. The share of international collaborations indicates the total number of scientific publications produced by South African researchers in collaboration with at least one international researcher.
Number of publications 12,000 Share of international collaborations (%) 60 50 40 30 20 10 0

10,000 8,000 6,000 4,000 2,000 0

1990

1991

1992

1993

1994

1995

1996

1997 1998

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

Figure 8. The total number and the share of scientific publications produced in collaboration with international researchers between 1990 and 2010

Number of publications 12,000 10,000 8,000 6,000 4,000 2,000 0

Total number of international collaborations

1990

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Figure 9. The total number of scientific publications and the total number of international collaborations with South African researchers between 1990 and 2010 I have also examined the total number of international collaborations undertake by South African researchers, which indicates the total number of countries that are collaborating on each scientific publication produced in collaboration with South African researchers. If South African researchers for example have published one paper in collaboration with researchers from three different countries, that accounts for three international collaborations. As indicated in Figure 9, the total numbers of international collaborations, with South African researchers, that produced scientific publications have grown on an annual basis from 660 in 1990 to 7,177 in 2010.

2010

International collaboration (%)

Total number of publications

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These results indicate the increasing internationalization of South Africas research activities. 3.4 Growth in international research partnerships with emerging nations This paper presents the contribution of international research partnerships between South African researchers and researchers from Brazil, Russia, India, China, Mexico and South Korea. The results indicate that research collaboration between South African researchers and researchers in China, India and Brazil is increasingly becoming more important for South Africas knowledge generation capacity in comparison to research collaborations with other countries presented in Figure 10. Collaborations with researchers in Russia, Mexico and South Korea produced the least number of scientific publications.
China India Brazil Russia Mexico Korea

140

Number of publications per year

120 100 80 60 40 20 0
1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009

Figure 10. The number of scientific publications produced by South African researchers per year in collaboration with international researchers A closer examination of these data in Figure 11 indicates that in the most recent 6 years, the highest levels of growth in research outputs were achieved between South African researchers and researchers in South Korea and India. This represented growth rates of 221% and 257% from 2004 to 2009 respectively. From 1998 to 2003, the highest growth (500%) in research output came from research collaboration between South African and South Korean researchers. The results indicate a significant decline in research outputs between South African and Russian researchers from 1998 to 2003 as well as from 2004 to 2009. One of the reasons for the declining growth in research outputs between South African and Russian researchers might be due to the fact that the Russian research and development system, which was responsible for major achievements during the era of the Soviet Union, has been unsuccessful in the 1990s and early 2000s to redirect scientific activities away from military and towards civilian goals (Yegorov, 2009).

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Growth (1992-1997)

Growth (1998-2003)

Growth (2004-2009)

1,200

Growth in publications (%)

1,000 800 600 400 200 0

Germany

Australia

Mexico

Russia

France

England

Brazil

China

Figure 11. Growth in the number of scientific publications produced by South African researchers in collaboration with international researchers from 1992 to 2009 The results presented in Figure 11 indicate that among the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries, India was the most important source of growth in research output for South Africa in the most recent 6 years. Brazil, India and China are likely to be important sources of growth in research output between South Africa and BRIC in the future. Stated in other words, data presented in Figures 10 and 11 indicate that although research partnerships with Russian researchers were important in the past (1992-1997), research partnerships with Brazil, India and China are likely to have a significant impact on South Africas knowledge generation capacity in comparison with research collaborations with Russian researchers. 3.5 Influence of international research partnerships Another aspect that I have considered in this paper is the overall influence of scientific publications produced by South African researchers in collaboration with international researchers. Although many countries have contributed in the development of South Africas knowledge generation capacity as illustrated in Figure 12, research collaborations between South African and American researchers as well as collaborations with researchers in England had a profound and positive impact on South Africas knowledge generation capacity from 1990 to 2010. Another set of countries that had a significant impact on South Africas knowledge generation capacity include Netherlands, Canada, Australia, France, and Germany. 4. Conclusions It this paper I have identified countries that are performing better than South Africa in terms of scientific productivity and influence. Developed economies such as Australia, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom, Germany and the United States were expected to perform much better than South Africa. However, countries such as Mexico and Brazil, India and China, South Korea and Australia represent four different clusters of relatively high performing economies compared to South Africa.

Korea

India

USA

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Number of Publications
Number of publications (1990-2010)

Times Cited 250,000 200,000 150,000 100,000 50,000 0


Number of times cited (1990-2010)
12

14,000 12,000 10,000 8,000 6,000 4,000 2,000


Trinidad & Tobago Cuba Lesotho Swaziland Ghana Egypt Mozambique Malawi Tanzania Zambia Botswana Turkey Singapore Nigeria Tunisia South Korea Thailand Namibia Zimbabwe Kenya India China Mexico Russia Brazil Finland New Zealand Israel Sweden Japan Switzerland Italy Netherlands Canada Australia France Germany England USA

Figure 12. The total number and influence of scientific publications produced by South African researchers in collaboration with international researchers between 1990 and 2010

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The countries above will be the subject of a subsequent in-depth study to uncover the reasons why South Africa is lagging behind in as far as scientific leadership and influence is concerned. In the interest of South-South cooperation, South Africa should promote the transfer of its scientific and/or economic leadership through international bilateral scientific and technological partnerships with other developing countries such as Tunisia, Egypt and Argentina. The main conclusion that can be drawn from this paper is that South African researchers are increasingly performing at the international stage. The increase in the numbers of scientific publications from 518 in 1990 to 3,404 in 2010 represents an increase from 12.8% in 1990 to 48.3% in 2010 in the proportion of scientific publications produced by South African researchers in collaboration with international researchers, as a percentage of the total number of publications produced by South African researchers. The total numbers of international collaborations, with South African researchers, that produced scientific publications have grown on an annual basis from 660 in 1990 to 7,177 in 2010. Another conclusion that can be drawn from this paper is that collaboration between South African researchers with researchers in the United States and England is likely to remain very important for South Africas knowledge generation capacity. Another set of countries that is likely to remain important for South Africas knowledge generation include countries such as Netherlands, Canada, Australia, France, and Germany. However, Brazil, China, Mexico, South Korea and India represent an emerging source of growth for South Africas knowledge generation capacity. I have also identified a relatively weak relationship between the influence research in social sciences and economic development. I did not examine this problem but I recommend it as a subject for an independent scientific research to uncover the underlying reasons. The poor quality of health and primary education are some of the major challenges that South Africa has to overcome. The poor quality of health of the nation has a potential of reducing the average life expectancy of the nation. It might be an interesting subject for an independent research to find out the effects of the poor quality of health on South Africas scientific research leadership and influence. 5. Acknowledgements This paper benefited from the questions raised by my colleagues, Dr Thomas Auf der Heyde and Dr Phethiwe Matutu, and the data support provided by Ms Alice Makua. The analyses, results and views presented in this paper are those of the author alone. 6. References
InCites , Thomson Reuters (2010). Report Created: Sept 21, 2010. New York, USA. TM InCites , Thomson Reuters (2011). Report Created: Feb 16, 2011.Thomson Reuters. New York, USA. Lingela, V. (2009). Management Strategy to Develop National Technology Capability. Proceedings of the International Conference on Education, Research and Innovation (ICERI2009). Madrid, Spain, 16-18 November 2009, pp. 1875-1886. Minister Naledi Pandor (2009). Address by Minister Naledi Pandor MP, at the National Innovation Summit. Maropeng Conference Centre, South Africa, 18 August 2009. Odagiri, H. and Goto, A. (1993). The Japanese system of innovation: past, present and future, in: Nelson, R.R. (Ed.), National Innovation Systems: A Comparative Analysis. Oxford University Press, Oxford. Schwab Klaus (Editor) (2010). The Global Competitiveness Report 2010-2011. World Economic Forum, Geneva, Switzerland.
TM

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The World Bank Group (2010). http://ddp-ext.worldbank.org/ext/DDPQQ/member.do?method =getMembers&userid=1&queryId=189. Accessed on 19 November 2010. Thomson Reuters (2011). Share of international collaborations. These data were provided by Philip Purnell of Thomson Reuters on 24 March 2011. Yegorov, I. (2009). Post-Soviet science: difficulties in the transformation of the R&D systems in Russia and Ukraine. Research Policy, Vol. 38, pp. 600609.

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