I remember sometime ago when I opened a journal to read a scientific paper, most papers were authored by two or three people from the same laboratory, less often from different laboratories of the same country and rarely from different countries. However the scientific age has been changing like the global climate and nowadays most of the scientific papers are authored by many researchers from different places around the world, particularly those concerning big challenges like genome organization, or global climate change, not to say particle physics or astrophysical observations. Is this is only an illusion, as a mirage on a desert, or in fact Science is a real network?
According to a new report published by The Royal Society UK: Yes! “Over a third of all articles published in international journals are internationally collaborative”. The report emphasizes that Science is a global enterprise with more than 7 million researchers around the world and a combined R&D spend around 1 trillion dollars, publishing papers in almost 25 thousand scientific journals and thousands of patents.
However, the global participation is not equitable. Despite the fact of an impressive growth of China, followed by India, Brazil and other emerging countries, the participation of these countries in big projects and the impact of their research are still shy of others. G7 countries and their internal network make most of the papers published in the recognized high impact journals, while the rest the world needs to make science by themselves for many different reasons.
This situation does not characterize a real network, so what then is needed to build a real one? How can the rest of the world be included? These questions are important, certainly, because the science network will drive discussions about questions, affecting mainly the developing world. At least, does it mean the three highlighted countries, China, Brazil and India, are not mature enough to participate in big challenge research projects?
The report makes five major recommendations but my suspicion is that these will develop even more highly the well-established network among the G7 countries, without giving directions to include developing countries. At least, one good example of inclusion may be given, where FAPESP (State of São Paulo Research Foundation-Brazil) and RCUK (UK Research Councils) signed a memorandum of understanding where joint research projects will be funded by each part, facilitating collaborative projects and making a new branch to the network.
Most of the questions remain without an answer, but the recognition this report gives makes one think about how to construct a real Global Science Network.