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Research at Spanish universities improves in competitiveness

Report about university research, development, and innovation (R&D&I) from the IUNE Observatory 2020

7/14/20

Scientific publications by university lecturers have increased by almost 7% in the past year and there is improved competitiveness for obtaining European scientific projects, since their number has increased almost 5% while  projects from the Spanish national R & D + i plan decreased 1.4% during the same period. These are some of the conclusions drawn from  the IUNE Observatory’s most recent annual report, produced by the 4U Alliance (Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, and Universidad Pompeu Fabra).

La investigación de las universidades españolas mejora su competitividad
 

The IUNE Observatory, coordinated by the Instituto INAECU (UAM-UC3M), monitors the Spanish University System’s (SUE) R&D&I using a range of indicators based on the seven major aspects: scientific activity, training capacity, competitiveness, funding, innovation, faculty and recognition.

Publications and productivity 

Scientific publications published in the Web of Science (WoS) by researching lecturers at Spanish universities have increased by almost 7%, in comparison to the data from the Observatory’s previous annual edition (2008 - 2017), increasing from a total of 471,435 to 502,055 papers. In contrast to this, “the number of lecturers remains pretty much the same, which implies an increase in productivity in terms of papers produced per lecturer”, states IUNE coordinator, Elías Sanz, UC3M’s Full Professor. The number of lecturers has risen from 62,648 in 2009 to 63,782 in 2018, whilst the number of publications per lecturer per year has increased from 0.61 to 0.95. 

In terms of Autonomous Communities, Catalonia has a total of 129,063 publications (25.7% of the SUE total), the Community of Madrid has exceeded 100,000 publications for the first time (101,332; 20.18% of the SUE) and Andalusia ranks in the third position, with 81,748 publications (16.28%), followed by Valencia with 66,196 publications (13.18%). The SUE average for this decade is 33,876, a 7.49% increase from the previous IUNE report (31,513 papers).  

In regard to subject areas, Experimental Sciences stand out, with a total of 185,201 papers (36.88% of the SUE total), followed by Medicine and Pharmacology (139,939; 27.87%), Architecture, Engineering and Computer Sciences (132,022; 26.29%), Life Sciences (81,750; 16.28%), Social Sciences (55,362; 11.02%) and Arts and Humanities (31,703; 6.31%). “The low percentages in the Social Sciences and Humanities can be explained, to a large extent, by the uneven coverage of the database used (WoS)”, the Report noted.

In relation to the citations received, which are considered an indicator of the quality and transcendence of the work, these papers had a total of 8,065,382 citations in the WoS database;which is an average of 16.06 citations per paper, an increase on the number obtained between 2008 and 2017 with 14.32 citations per paper. This may also be due to the visibility of the publications, given that researchers at Spanish universities currently publish more in journals in the first quartile (the most prestigious in every field), with an increase from 51.60% of works in 2009 to 53.39% in 2018.

Patents and innovation and collaboration with the business sector 

A total of 5,141 patents have been granted by the Spanish Patent and Trademarks Office (OEPM, in its Spanish acronym) to Spanish universities during the decade between 2009 and 2018, an increase of 37.61%. As seen in previous reports, polytechnic universities are granted the most patents. 

In this period, funding obtained by universities, linked to consultancies and contracts for research and development, has generated a volume of income above 2,959 million Euros. However, this is a decrease on data from 2009; falling from 413.4 to 189.97 million Euros in 2018. 

By analysing the evolution of funding obtained through providing research and development services to companies, the report shows that this income has grown mainly from 2016, reaching 139.99 million Euros in 2018, compared to 23.87 million Euros in 2009. Funding received through licenses has increased from 2.5 million Euros in 2009 to3.6 in 2018.

National and international R&D&I projects 

One of the indicators used to assess the competitiveness is Spanish universities’ involvement in European projects. The total number of participations in the past decade was 3,652, increasing from 293 projects in 2009 to 427 in 2018; an increase of 45.73% and an average accumulative increase of 4.27% (as opposed to 4.75% in the previous period). 

In terms of National Plan projects, 22,764 were identified within the period and a decrease of 20.93% is confirmed, in relation to the previous period, decreasing from 2,766 projects in 2009 to 2,187 in 2018. 

Concerning attraction and training talent, the report indicates an increase of 4.2% in the number of Juan de la Cierva’s contracts, increasing from 187 in 2009 to 251 in 2018, with an average accumulative increase of 3.32%. However, Ramón y Cajal’s contracts have decreased significantly (by 9.8%), falling from 132 in 2009 to 119 in 2018; a decrease of 9.84%.

Further information: 

Informe IUNE

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