Geography of Science

Interactive map of authors having published Nature or Science articles in 2007. Source: Leydesdorff, Walch-Solimena, & Ettl, 2011).

Interactive map of authors having published Nature or Science articles in 2007. Source: Leydesdorff, Walch-Solimena, & Ettl, 2011).

Geography has been seen as a major component affected knowledge creation in science and scientific research. Any look into citations based on countries continually shows Western states being far ahead in citations and research output, even as other countries catch up such as China and India.


With the rise of the Internet, scientists had assumed scientific developed would become less centralized, allowing other regions to develop their scientific potential. However, geographers have indicated that spatial factors still play an important role.[1] Within countries, economically powerful cities and centers have also attracted the most knowledge creation and scientific output, as they command the resources to develop innovative science.[2] In one study conducted, multi-university research has been demonstrated as the fastest growing collaborative structure; however, fewer rather than more universities are within this network of collaboration. In effect, the most influential universities and research have narrowed, rather than widened, since the Internet has become prevalent.[3]

Spatial and organizational proximity has had a positive feedback role in not only growing academic research but also in applied scientific areas, including developing technologies derived from scientific research.[4] Recently, universities have increasingly launched endeavors for partnerships or developing of businesses within or near their university settings. The intent is to move some of the basic research carried out to a level where it can be commercialized, particularly in the information technology sector. However, this type of science is often affected by how well the regional economy has developed, where even a relatively strong university can be hindered by poor economic performance or capability in a surrounding region.[5] In effect, despite the role of the Internet in allowing greater global connectivity, local geography still plays a dominant role in shaping science.


[1] For more on the role of geography and science, see:  Pan, R. K., Kaski, K., & Fortunato, S. (2012). World citation and collaboration networks: uncovering the role of geography in science. Scientific Reports, 2.

[2] For more on how knowledge develops in limited centers, see:  Bornmann, L., Leydesdorff, L., Walch-Solimena, C., & Ettl, C. (2011). Mapping excellence in the geography of science: An approach based on Scopus data. Journal of Informetrics, 5(4), 537–546.

[3] For more on the narrowing of universities involved in high-end research and multi-university collaborations, see:   Jones, B. F., Wuchty, S., & Uzzi, B. (2008). Multi-University Research Teams: Shifting Impact, Geography, and Stratification in Science. Science, 322(5905), 1259–1262.

[4] For more on how spatial and organizational proximity influence research, science, and innovation, see:  Scott, A. J. (2006). Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Industrial Development: Geography and the Creative Field Revisited. Small Business Economics, 26(1), 1–24.

[5] For more on the relationship of the economic setting and universities for university-launched businesses, see:  Casper, S. (2013). The spill-over theory reversed: The impact of regional economies on the commercialization of university science. Research Policy, 42(8), 1313–1324.