Globalization of public-private research in worldwide science: co-publication trends and geographical distances between research partners

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van Eck, Nees Jan
Tijssen, Robert
Waltman, Ludo
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Science is not just about free flow of scholarly knowledge, technical expertise or advanced skills, it also involves linkages to dense and interconnected partnership networks. Geographical and economic factors also exert an impact on these processes. Spatial concentration effects still dominate the economic topography of our world, where large cities in the advanced countries act as hubs of local knowledge-intensive economies. Simultaneously, many large R&D-intensive enterprises are now for economic reasons increasingly inclined to outsource their basic science to, or establishing close collaborative ties with, universities and government research institutes wherever they can find the best suitable provider (Broström, 2010). The market for industry’s research partners is globalizing, where countries such as China, are offering low-cost high-quality research facilities. A multitude of case studies of public-private research cooperation have examined these trends and the role of (close) proximity, and associated ‘knowledge spillover’ effects (Arundel & Geuna, 2004; Tijssen, 2004; Tijssen, 2009; Ponds et al., 2010). The findings strongly suggest that physical proximity is becoming increasingly irrelevant in contemporary science. This assertion is confirmed by results from a very recent macro-level study, which shows that the maximum distance between partners (in kilometers) has increased fivefold since 1980 (Van Eck et al., 2011). This particular study sets out to determine whether or not the globalization of public-private science is following this trend in science. We measure the extent and growth rate of globalization in terms of the physical distance between author addresses that are listed in public-private co-publications (PPCs). These jointly authored publications are seen to represent (successful) research cooperation, or associated research related interactions, between the private sector organizations (mainly business enterprises) and public sector organizations (research universities mainly). The bibliographic material was extracted from research publications between 2000 and 2009 indexed by the Web of Science database (WoS). The authored addresses were reduced to a city and country name. The 11 000 most frequently occurring addresses were tagged with their latitude and longitude coordinates, using the website www.gpsvisualizer.com/geocoder/.
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