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Wales punches above its weight in terms of research outputs, efficiency and impact

Wales’s use of research inputs is highly productive and efficient, outranking most comparator countries of a similar size, according to an independent report launched today.

Commissioned by the Welsh Government, Higher Education Funding Council for Wales and Welsh universities, the ‘International Comparative Performance of the Welsh Research Base 2013’, carried out by Elsevier, examined the research base of universities, research institutes, industry and the NHS in Wales and compared their publication rates and impacts with competitor countries in order to demonstrate the benefits and return of public investment in university research.

The first comprehensive evidence-based analysis of Wales’s research activity and relative research impact in the devolution era, the report makes for heartening reading for the sector in Wales. Using a range of input and output research indices, the study found that in terms of productivity and efficiency, Wales performs above the UK average and is one of the most efficient countries in the world when compared with countries of a similar size. Furthermore, although Wales publishes a relatively small volume of publications, it has increased its field-weighted citation impact – which is 58% above the world average – and is extremely efficient in translating its relative low levels of research income into high impact research.

Other findings include the fact that Wales’s inflow of researchers produced the highest field-weighted citation impact at over 80% above the world average, suggesting that Wales is an increasingly attractive region for high quality researchers to relocate to.

The findings of the Elsevier report provide a compelling evidence-based summary of Wales’s research activity since devolution and its valuable contribution to the UK’s world leading research base. Over the past decade, Wales has come from behind to take a place within the top research countries of its size in the world and the report’s findings confirm the quality of research from Welsh universities ranks highly by national and international standards.

Chair of Higher Education Wales, Professor Colin Riordan said: “Today’s report provides a useful snapshot of Wales’s research activity.  The results highlight the importance of continued public investment in our universities and demonstrate Wales’s attractiveness as a research destination. Our universities continue to be central to the nation’s development, powering the economy through world class research, job creation and ground breaking innovation.”

Chief Executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, David Blaney said: “We welcome the publication of this report, which provides an objective, external evidence base of the Welsh higher education sector’s research performance. We are heartened by the encouraging picture which it presents, including how it demonstrates that the sector is extremely efficient at converting research income into high impact research. The report should give institutions and their partners confidence in the expertise and abilities of the Welsh research base, and underlines the importance of continued investment in our institutions.”

I am pleased with the findings of this report which shows that Wales is producing high quality research and is an increasingly attractive place for researchers to relocate to. We are determined to build on this good work by attracting more research funding and scientists to Wales through initiatives such as the Sêr Cymru programme.

– Minister for Economy and Science, Edwina Hart 

Chief Scientific Adviser for Wales, Julie Williams said: “Researchers in Wales deserve a big pat on the back, and just think what could be done with greater numbers of scientists. It is my ambition to grow the research base in Wales, increasing the number of researchers and producing an environment that helps our talent succeed. Wales is clearly performing strongly and getting good value for money from its research base. There is much talent here already but the report also highlights the need to strengthen in areas such as Engineering, Medicine and the Natural Sciences. I want to see us strengthen our capacity in those areas and this report will be valuable in providing a baseline to measure our progress against.”

A full version of the report is available to view here.