Israeli universities are winning international recognition. A new ranking by Thomson Reuters underscores this feeling, revealing that 1% of the most cited articles worldwide in the past decade were written at Israeli universities or based on collaborations with them. The data was produced especially for "Globes" from the Thomson Reuters Web of Science database, represented in Israel by Teldan Information Systems Ltd.. The data was produced ahead of Teldan's Science 2013 conference at the Tel Aviv Hilton on May 6-8.
Israel accounts for 0.1% of the world's population, and 0.8% of the developed world's population, but it should be noted in this context that some scientific breakthroughs come from the developing world. If Israel's location, far from the world's centers of science, is taken into account, and if the results are weighted for Israel's relatively young population, the achievement is impressive.
The influence of Israeli articles has been rising steadily for the past three decades, compared with the global average. However, the trend in the past two years has been less encouraging: in this period, Israel supplied just 0.1% of the "hot" articles, based on Thomson Reuters' criteria. Its index of hot articles examines which studies written in the past two years have been cited in recent months; in other words, which new articles are current topics of discussion.
There are two possible ways to explain this figure. The first is that Israel produced fewer articles that generated interest in the scientific community. This explanation is supported by the well-known claim that Israel benefited in recent years from investment made decades ago, and that the cuts in universities' budgets in the past decade will adversely affect Israel's academic standing in the coming years. The other explanation is that Israeli articles simply take longer to gain recognition. Both explanations may be right.
The fields in which Israeli science stands out in global comparison may be surprising. Israel is ranked sixth worldwide in the number of citations of articles in economics and business management. The figure is unexpected, since Israel's business schools have not been considered until now as important rivals to the prestigious US schools. Israel, as a young country, lacks any history of economic-philosophical thinking.
Israel is ranked seventh worldwide in the number of citations of articles in chemistry, eighth in computing, ninth in biology, materials, and biochemistry, and tenth in space research.
Interestingly, in neurology and agriculture, two fields in which Israel is considered a global leader, it is ranked 18th and 13th, respectively. Despite the relative weakness, there is a string of commercial successes, which indicate that Israel is an important player in these fields. For example, in immunology, Israel is ranked 29th in the number of citations. It is possible that there are fields in which commercial success has channeled researchers to seek commercialization of their discoveries at the expense of writing academic articles, but this is only a hypothesis.
According to the Times Higher Education Index, which is based on Thomson Reuters data and weights the success in each of the university's missions - education, research, and contribution to industry - Israel's best university is the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, which is ranked 137th worldwide. Tel Aviv University is ranked 158th and the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology is ranked 193rd. However, Tel Aviv University has been the leader for the past three years in the number of articles published, followed by Hebrew University, and the Technion.
According to the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU, also known as the Shanghai rankings), which only considers the academic aspect and places greater emphasis on the articles produced by the university and prestigious awards won by it researchers, Israel's top university is Hebrew University, in 53rd place worldwide. It is followed by the Technion, the Weizmann Institute of Science, and only then Tel Aviv University.
Thomson Reuters VP sales EMEA Erik Jan Van Kleef said, "Universities are now using our data differently from the past; not for research, but for business. For example, these data can be used to understand the life cycle of investment in hiring a new researcher. Once, you only knew if he or she was a well-regarded researcher. Today, you can immediately see what impact they have contributed to the institution in their field. Do researchers want to be evaluated in this way? There is no choice. This trend won't stop."
Van Kleef added that Thomson Reuters' data on research can be used as commercially, saying, "If you see that the number of citations of your article in a particular field has fallen, something else has probably been invented. You can know this even before rivals' patents are discovered."
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on May 1, 2013