15-10-2013

Research at the University: Catalan universities, leaders in scientific production

On July 22nd, Science and Development Foundation presented their annual report on Spanish universities. In this report, a ranking of universities and institutions was established on the basis of indicators such as the total volume of scientific production, scientific quality measured by impact indicators, and the percentage of papers published within the 10 % most cited in each category. The ranking was based on scientific publications from the Scopus database between 2007 and 2011. The authors of the report developed also a normalized impact index, taking into account the different specialties and the diversity of publication and citation patterns of several scientific fields. According to this index, the first four institutions in the ranking are Catalan: Barcelona University, Pompeu Fabra University, Barcelona Autonomous University and Rovira i Virgili University. Furthermore, when the percentage of excellence was measured, Rovira i Virgili University ranked the first position, with a rate above 10%, followed by Lleida University, with a rate of about 9%. Other Spanish rankings, such as UGR Ranking of Spanish Universities according to Fields and Scientific Disciplines, also show good positions of Catalan universities. In the international setting, the Performance Ranking of Scientific Papers for World Universities 2013, which has been recently published, shows that Barcelona University is the only Spanish university included among the best 100 worldwide universities. This ranking evaluates productivity and the impact of publications of top 500 worldwide universities for the period 2002-2012. Barcelona University has advanced to position 89 as it was listed as 115th in the previous edition of the ranking.

According to Luis Sanz, Director of the Institute of Public Goods and Policies, who prepared the report for the Science and Development Foundation, the reasons for the success of the Catalan university system are essentially three: the development of a strategy based on the flexibility and autonomy of schools and universities, that for example, allowed creating the ICREA program of international talent recruitment; second, the encouragement of alliances that led to the emergence of partnerships and foundations with several partners; but, above all, scientific excellence benefits from the existence of an environment supporting it. The commitment of the autonomic government, providing additional resources and stability, something that has not happened in other autonomic communities, has been one of the keys of success.

Therefore, in an independent Catalonia we should not be worried about our future as researchers. The aim of boosting research is in our nature. As we stated in our manifesto, we need a well-funded research system, efficient and competitive, and that will be more easily secured if we are independent.

Marta Alegret, Universitat de barcelona

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