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Science Editing > Volume 4(1); 2017 > Article
Chung and Kim: Rapid growth of international collaboration from articles indexed in Scopus database by researchers in Korea from 2006 to 2015

Abstract

It aimed at analyzing the trends of international collaboration from articles indexed in Scopus by researchers in Korea from 2006 to 2015. The number of articles coauthored by researchers in Korea and those in selected foreign countries was obtained from document searches of the Scopus database. The growth of research collaboration in various academic disciplines was also studied. There were 22 countries which produced over 2,000 papers in collaboration with researchers in Korea during the ten-year period between 2006 and 2015. The average of the average annual growth rate taken over these 22 countries was 12.9%. In 9 additional Asian, Latin American, and African countries, more rapid growth of international research collaboration was clearly seen. Though research collaboration is most active in the field of physics and astronomy with most countries, it was found that the growth of collaboration in medicine was most remarkable in Southeast Asian countries. It may be originated from the intimate relationship between Korea and Southeast Asia and the leadership of Korean physicians in that region.

Introduction

In recent years, there has been a rapid increase in international collaborations in research and development [1,2]. It may be originated from a variety of reasons, such as the movement of globalization, the development in communication, information, and transportation technologies, and the general increase of human interactions across the world. One crucial factor may be the development of the internet which made it possible to have very efficient and fast academic communication among researchers. The internet made not only international but also domestic collaboration much easier, which resulted in the substantial increase of the average number of authors per paper [3]. In this article, we aimed to study this phenomenon using the yearly number of research publications coauthored by researchers in Korea and those in 31 foreign countries, which were published from 2006 to 2015 and indexed in the Scopus database. We also searched for the factors causing the growth of international collaboration. The results will be able to show the trends of international collaboration by researchers in Korea.

Methods

We used the Scopus database to find the number of publications jointly written by researchers in Korea and those in foreign countries. The Scopus database was searched in January 9, 2017. When using the document search function of the Scopus database, we restricted the search to three types of documents, which were “articles”, “reviews”, and “conference papers”, and to two affiliation countries, “Korea” and “each designated country”. The numbers of documents published each year from “2006” to “2015” and the total number of documents during the ten-year period were retrieved. For example, the query string, (AFFIL COUNTRY(Korea) AND AFFILCOUNTRY(Japan)) AND DOCTYPE (ar OR re OR cp) AND PUBYEAR=2006, gives the number of articles, reviews, and conference papers jointly written by researchers in Korea and those in Japan in 2006. The Scopus database provides the search data which break down the number of documents by subject areas. We also retrieved these numbers to find out the changes in each subject area separately. The search was performed for bi-national collaborations between Korea and another country. Multi-national collaborations by researchers from more than two countries were not investigated.
Using the number of documents published each year, we calculated the annual growth rate (AGR) for the year (N+1) defined by
AGR(N+1)=Number for year(N+1) - Number for year NNumber for year N
By taking the average of this quantity from 2007 to 2015, we also calculated the average annual growth rate (AAGR) for each country. In addition, we calculated the compounded annual growth rate (CAGR), which was defined in the present case by
CAGR=(Number in 2015Number in 2006)1/9-1

Results

Our main search results are summarized in Tables 1 and 2. In Table 1, we showed the yearly number of documents coauthored by researchers in Korea and those in the country designated in the first column from 2006 to 2015. We also showed the total number of documents during the ten-year period, the AAGR, and the CAGR. Twenty two countries which produced more than 2,000 documents in collaboration with Korea were United States, Japan, China, Germany, India, United Kingdom, Canada, France, Australia, Italy, Russian Federation, Taiwan, Switzerland, Spain, Netherlands, Singapore, Poland, Sweden, Viet Nam, Pakistan, Brazil, and Belgium in the decreasing order of the number of publications. Except for Japan, which showed a low AAGR of 1.96%, all countries showed a substantial growth in the number of publications during the ten-year span. The average of the AAGR taken over the 22 countries listed was 12.9%. The CAGR is consistently a little smaller than the AAGR. The discrepancy between the AAGR and the CAGR is larger when the yearly fluctuation in the AGR is larger.
In Table 2, we showed the results obtained for 9 additional countries from Asia, North America, South America, and Africa, which include Saudi Arabia, Iran, Thailand, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Mexico, Colombia, Egypt, and South Africa. These countries produced the largest number of publications in collaboration with Korea in each continent, except for those already shown in Table 1. Their growth rates were, on the average, substantially larger than those listed in Table 1.
In Fig. 1, we showed the number of papers coauthored by researchers in Korea and those in some selected countries in each year from 2006 to 2015 versus publication year. In Fig. 1A, 1B, and 1C, the top 11 countries which produced the largest number of papers are shown, while, in Fig. 1D, the countries which showed the top five AAGRs are shown. Except for Japan and Russian Federation, the trend of rapid growth was clearly seen.
In Fig. 2, the AGR for the top 20 countries which produced the largest number of papers in collaboration with Korea is plotted versus year. We remind the reader that, for example, the AGR for 2007 is computed from the number of papers published in 2006 and that in 2007. The yearly fluctuation of the growth rate is observed to be rather large and sometimes the growth rate is negative. From the 20 curves shown in this figure, we notice that the growth rates for many countries dropped rather rapidly between 2012 and 2013 and also between 2007 and 2008. Similar behavior is observed for other countries not shown in this figure.
We also examined the dependence of the growth of international collaboration on academic disciplines. In Table 3, the total number of documents from 2006 to 2015 coauthored by researchers in Korea and those in the country designated in the first column in the top five academic fields which produced the largest number of documents in each country. In many countries, physics and astronomy, medicine, engineering, materials science, and biochemistry, genetics and molecular biology are the dominant fields with the largest number of documents. Physics and astronomy is the most dominant field with the largest number of documents in 24 countries out of the total 31 countries. In five countries which include Colombia, Mexico, Russian Federation, Poland, and Brazil, the portion of the documents in physics and astronomy was more than 60%. Medicine is the second largest field with the largest number in 4 countries and the second largest number in 17 countries.
In Fig. 3A, we plotted the number of papers coauthored by researchers in Korea and those in the United States in each year from 2006 to 2015 in the top five academic fields which produced the largest number of papers versus publication year. We found that there was considerable growth in all five fields, with the growth in medicine being particularly rapid. In Fig. 3B, we showed the number of papers coauthored by researchers in Korea and those in the five Southeast Asian countries designated in the figure in each year from 2006 to 2015 in the field of medicine versus publication year. The rapid growth in all five countries is remarkable.

Discussion

These results show that the rapid increase of international collaborations between Korean researchers and foreign researchers is a general trend, which applies to a very large number of countries in the world. That the United States is the top ranking collaborative country is not surprising because it has been the most favorite country for Korean students and young researchers to visit to study abroad and the number of visits has been outstanding. Out of the top five collaborative countries, India and China showed the 1st and 2nd largest growth rates. This is perhaps related to the large influx of graduate students and postdoctoral researchers from these countries into Korean universities and research institutes in the recent decade. The same reasoning may be applied to Pakistan, which showed the largest AAGR in Table 1. The extremely rapid growth rate for Saudi Arabia listed in Table 2 is especially remarkable. This seems to be due to the government policy drive to enhance research collaborations between the two countries.
In Table 3, we examined the dependence of the growth of international collaboration on academic disciplines. The case of Colombia, where physics and astronomy documents take up 77% of the total, is particularly interesting. We found that there were 10 countries other than Korea and Colombia, each of which was affiliated with more than 70% of the total 976 documents produced by collaborations between Korea and Colombia. This implies that a great majority of documents were produced through international collaborations among many countries. We suspect that a very large number of documents are in the area of experimental high energy physics, in which multinational collaborations are quite common. On the other hand, it is quite interesting to notice that the four countries with the largest number of documents in medicine are all Southeast Asian countries, namely, Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong, and Malaysia. Saudi Arabia is unique in that the field with the largest number of documents is chemistry, in contrast to all other countries. This supports our suspicion that the collaboration between Korea and Saudi Arabia has been driven by external policies to enhance research collaborations mainly in the fields related to petrochemical industry.
In Fig. 2, we mentioned that the growth rates for many countries dropped between 2012 and 2013 and between 2007 and 2008. We think this may be due to the global economic recession which occurred during the same period and a corresponding decrease in research funding in many countries.
In conclusion, the rapid growth of international research collaboration was clearly seen in almost all cases studied here. The overall increase might be attributed to the movement of globalization, the development in communication and transportation technologies, and the development of the internet. Though research collaboration was most active in the field of physics and astronomy in most countries, it was found that, in many countries in Southeast Asia, the growth of collaboration in medicine was most remarkable. It may be originated from the intimate relationship between Korea and Southeast Asia and the leadership of Korean physicians in that region.

Conflict of Interest

No potential conflict of interest relevant to this article was reported.

The number of papers coauthored by researchers in Korea and those in the country designated in the figure in each year from 2006 to 2015 plotted versus publication year. In (A), the United States and in (B), the countries which produced the 2nd to 6th largest number of papers are shown, while, in (C), those which produced the 7th to 11th largest number of papers are shown. In (D), the countries which had the top five average annual growth rate among all countries studied are shown.
/upload/thumbnails/se-4-1-18f1.gif

Fig. 1.

Annual growth rate for (A) the top 10 and (B) the 11th to 20th countries which produced the largest number of documents in collaboration with Korea plotted versus year.
/upload/thumbnails/se-4-1-18f2.gif

Fig. 2.

(A) The number of papers coauthored by researchers in Korea and those in the United States in each year from 2006 to 2015 in the top five academic fields which produced the largest number of papers plotted versus publication year. (B) The number of papers coauthored by researchers in Korea and those in the countries designated in the figure in each year from 2006 to 2015 in the field of medicine plotted versus publication year. Eng, engineering; Mat, materials science; Phys, physics and astronomy; Med, medicine; Bio, biochemistry, genetics and molecular biology.
/upload/thumbnails/se-4-1-18f3.gif

Fig. 3.

Table 1.

The yearly number of documents coauthored by researchers in Korea and those in the country designated in the first column from 2006 to 2015
Country No. of articles in each year
AAGR (%) CAGR (%)
2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 Total
United States 5,671 5,887 6,144 6,681 7,668 8,633 9,238 9,547 9,890 9,979 79,338 6.57 6.48
Japan 1,916 1,869 1,864 1,908 2,133 2,242 2,479 2,506 2,355 2,248 21,520 1.96 1.79
China 955 1,269 1,530 1,629 2,016 2,249 2,484 2,526 2,942 3,062 20,662 14.21 13.82
Germany 600 713 745 830 998 1,162 1,317 1,353 1,457 1,549 10,724 11.28 11.11
India 479 590 693 818 965 1,107 1,286 1,366 1,651 1,725 10,675 15.45 15.3
United Kingdom 615 670 703 807 924 1,095 1,292 1,313 1,386 1,431 10,236 10.01 9.84
Canada 540 600 710 750 790 833 878 899 896 953 7,849 6.63 6.52
France 382 440 465 573 647 822 839 823 900 939 6,830 10.88 10.51
Australia 332 374 398 452 497 622 738 735 876 912 5,936 12.14 11.88
Italy 224 267 280 339 394 536 652 639 742 837 4,910 16.22 15.77
Russian Federation 450 460 427 404 403 475 554 529 590 603 4,895 3.68 3.31
Taiwan 239 253 283 325 407 525 555 572 565 591 4,315 10.99 10.58
Switzerland 253 277 301 291 368 435 589 513 506 574 4,104 10.45 9.53
Spain 151 182 177 221 312 451 556 577 604 680 3,907 19.19 18.2
Netherlands 162 222 235 228 263 321 369 373 382 419 2,970 11.71 11.14
Singapore 122 101 155 193 279 329 371 408 467 515 2,940 18.97 17.35
Poland 165 192 158 180 209 242 315 312 341 347 2,460 9.42 8.61
Sweden 113 112 158 182 210 274 318 307 362 386 2,419 15.38 14.62
Viet Nam 108 87 136 149 191 234 266 357 365 436 2,329 18.52 16.77
Pakistan 59 53 63 111 154 196 315 405 382 461 2,199 28.35 25.66
Brazil 98 100 115 147 189 247 302 291 332 363 2,185 16.24 15.66
Belgium 110 144 112 158 204 222 272 264 321 352 2,157 15.39 13.8

AAGR, average annual growth rate; CAGR, compounded annual growth rate.

Table 2.

The yearly number of documents coauthored by researchers in Korea and those in the country designated in the first column from 2006 to 2015
Country No. of articles in each year
AAGR (%) CAGR (%)
2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 Total
Saudi Arabia 3 3 15 34 81 152 218 296 420 552 1,773 100.56 78.5
Iran 14 30 31 68 134 195 309 284 310 345 1,720 50.04 42.77
Thailand 53 59 94 108 122 150 171 247 307 342 1,653 23.95 23.02
Hong Kong 65 96 107 103 147 169 216 218 240 257 1,618 17.67 16.5
Malaysia 31 67 76 83 120 143 189 191 292 378 1,570 35.34 32.03
Mexico 89 89 146 146 183 243 266 218 238 267 1,887 14.99 12.98
Colombia 33 37 55 54 81 127 151 136 146 156 976 20.99 18.84
Egypt 30 58 72 66 82 152 216 225 248 304 1,452 33.09 29.35
South Africa 21 27 28 35 46 73 102 108 126 140 706 24.53 23.47

AAGR, average annual growth rate; CAGR, compounded annual growth rate.

Table 3.

Number of documents from 2006 to 2015 coauthored by researchers in Korea and those in the designated country in the top five fields
Country 1st field 2nd field 3rd field 4th field 5th field
United States Eng (18,416) Med (17,250) Phys (16,490) Bio (13,806) Mat (11,986)
Japan Phys (6,604) Eng (4,370) Mat (3,992) Med (3,513) Bio (3,387)
China Phys (5,614) Eng (4,720) Mat (3,713) Med (3,089) Bio (2,912)
Germany Phys (5,051) Med (1,776) Eng (1,683) Mat (1,578) Bio (1,333)
India Phys (4,064) Mat (2,815) Chem (2,284) Eng (2,201) Chem Eng (1,306)
United Kingdom Phys (3,806) Med (2,063) Eng (1,922) Bio (1,369) Mat (1,220)
Canada Phys (1,918) Med (1,740) Eng (1,504) Bio (1,218) Comp (1,056)
France Phys (3,327) Eng (1,059) Med (1,049) Mat (815) Bio (720)
Australia Phys (1,478) Med (1,434) Eng (1,143) Mat (834) Bio (776)
Italy Phys (2,443) Med (1,160) Bio (625) Eng (618) Earth (373)
Russian Federation Phys (3,417) Eng (667) Mat (563) Chem (317) Earth (286)
Taiwan Phys (1,967) Med (1,025) Eng (525) Bio (414) Comp (348)
Switzerland Phys (2,330) Med (712) Eng (493) Bio (401) Mat (383)
Spain Phys (2,027) Med (773) Eng (490) Bio (462) Earth (351)
Netherlands Phys (1,303) Med (748) Bio (418) Eng (332) Earth (180)
Singapore Med (937) Eng (718) Bio (581) Comp (478) Mat (411)
Poland Phys (1,578) Med (332) Eng (236) Bio (205) Earth (187)
Sweden Phys (1,108) Med (544) Bio (410) Eng (282) Chem (208)
Viet Nam Eng (671) Phys (535) Mat (474) Chem (420) Med (381)
Pakistan Phys (864) Eng (367) Comp (278) Agri (264) Math (256)
Brazil Phys (1,394) Med (426) Eng (193) Bio (176) Earth (108)
Belgium Phys (1,072) Med (471) Eng (321) Bio (253) Mat (192)
Saudi Arabia Chem (451) Mat (441) Phys (426) Eng (387) Chem Eng (285)
Iran Phys (713) Math (354) Eng (353) Mat (250) Med (176)
Thailand Med (647) Phys (366) Bio (228) Eng (213) Agri (193)
Hong Kong Med (586) Eng (266) Comp (236) Bio (210) Phys (189)
Malaysia Med (450) Eng (382) Phys (337) Comp (221) Bio (184)
Mexico Phys (1,333) Med (237) Eng (184) Earth (131) Mat (110)
Colombia Phys (751) Med (137) Eng (68) Math (59) Bio (54)
Egypt Phys (614) Chem (289) Eng (288) Mat (252) Med (179)
South Africa Phys (287) Med (176) Eng (108) Earth (106) Bio (76)

Eng, engineering; Med, medicine; Phys, physics and astronomy; Bio, biochemistry, genetics and molecular biology; Mat, materials science; Chem, chemistry; Chem Eng, chemical engineering; Comp, computer science; Earth, earth and planetary sciences; Agri, agricultural and biological sciences; Math, mathematics.

References

1. Witze A. Research gets increasingly international. Nature 2016;Jan. 19. [Epub]. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature.2016.19198
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2. Wagner CS, Park HW, Leydesdorff L. The continuing growth of global cooperation networks in research: a conundrum for national governments. PLoS One 2015;10:e0131816. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0131816
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3. Jang H, Kim K, Huh S, Kim H. Increasing number of authors per paper in Korean science and technology papers. Sci Ed 2016;3:80–9. https://doi.org/10.6087/kcse.70
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