Scientific Articles

Key Messages

  • Canada receives a “B” grade and ranks 8th out of 16 peer countries.
  • Canada ranks ahead of science powerhouses like the U.S. and the U.K. but behind Switzerland and Sweden.
  • Canada must perform at the cutting edge and attract the brightest students to careers in science and engineering or it will continue to fall behind our peers on this indicator.

Putting scientific articles in context

The publication of scientific articles helps gauge how well Canada is fostering the creation of knowledge. Scientific articles—most of which come from the academic community—measure the scope and depth of a country’s scientific research. Universities produce the scientists and engineers whose discoveries and innovations are essential to a country’s continued prosperity. Leading-edge science is often the result of innovative industries collaborating with science and engineering specialists. A country’s ability to sustain a strong science base—measured in part by the publication of scientific articles—is thus an indicator of its advanced innovation capacity.

How does Canada’s publication rate for scientific articles compare to that of its peers?

Canada receives a “B” grade and ranks in 8th place. Canada performs better than science powerhouses such as the U.S. and U.K., as well as technology leaders such as Germany and Japan. But Canada ranks behind peer countries with smaller populations where innovative science and technology output is more intensive.

Why does Canada perform better on this indicator of innovation than on others?

Canada has a high public share of R&D financing spent by university researchers, something that encourages relatively more publications. Some of Canada’s peer countries, on the other hand, have a higher share of industry funding for R&D, which seems to encourage patenting over publishing.

Has Canada’s performance improved?

In the late 1990s, Canada dropped from a “B” for the number of scientific articles published per million people to a “C” grade. Although Canada still scores a “C” overall for the 2000s, it moved up to a “B” in 2006. That year, with 835 articles published per million people, Canada’s performance surpassed 1995’s previous peak of 810 articles per million people. In 2009, the latest year for which data are available, Canada further increased its output, with 861 scientific articles per million people.

Sweden and Switzerland are the only two countries with “A”s in both periods. Five countries have been consistent “D” performers: Austria, France, Germany, Ireland, and Japan.

Why measure the number of publications per million people?

Relative intensity is a measure of comparative advantage. Countries with larger populations have more diversified economies than smaller countries. In absolute terms, larger countries may have more scientists and technologists and produce more science and technology. But their science and technology sectors may be a less important source of economic gain, proportionately, than other sectors. Smaller countries with economies more specialized in particular industries—such as science and technology, in this case—can therefore have a comparative advantage when competing on a global scale.

Innovation Indicators

See discussions on other indicators
Scientific ArticlesICT Investment
Patents by populationNew Firm Density
Patents IndexVenture Capital
High- and medium-high-technology manufacturingPublic R&D Spending
Knowledge-intensive servicesBusiness Enterprise R&D Spending
Export market share: AerospaceTop-Cited Papers Index
Export market share: ElectronicsPatenting Firms Less Than Five Years Old
Export market share: Office machinery and computersEase of Entrepreneurship Index
Export market share: PharmaceuticalsConnectivity
Export market share: InstrumentsGovernment Online Services Index