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The American Paradox: Is the TOP science moving silently to ASIA ??

Mike Ciavarella's picture

Dear Imechanica friends: in connection to the and Roberto Ballarini post suggesting the presidential Candidates Obama, Clinton and McCain do not seem to respond to the Sciencedebate2008, and see the call for "Science White House" by Nobel prize winners David Baltimore and Ahmed Zewail, the USA seems to be in a big Science Crisis, which is called already in Scientific Literature the American PARADOX (see below). In very short, this is due to the fact that the ONLY real big thing for the American (and European) public is Sport and TV stars. There is "legs-drain" of David and Victoria Beckham ---- the public and politicians do not care of the "brain-drain" of best people like for example people who already running operations in both US and in Asia (see the A* program in Singapore). And not even of Nobel-prize-winner-drain!!!

Therefore, an entire generation of Chinese dream of a World-Class university, while American only are interested to World-Cups, and Football games, not to Nobel laureates!  <!--break-->

Hence, the big funding in US and EU goes to people who do not do real research, but network to politicians perhaps because they know a certain Senator has lost his wife for cancer, and then launch a huge operation in Cancer National Initiative.  This typically results in a waste of taxpayer money, because there is NO vision of what to do with the money! 

We hope with our next launch of the European Challenges project, to resonate Dr. Vest message with the, to change this decline. 

 Michele Ciavarella

if you want to contribute, please send me an email at 


ROBERT D. SHELTON Relations between national research investment
and publication output: application to an American Paradox

Scientometrics, Vol. 74, No. 2 (2008) 191–205, DOI: 10.1007/s11192-008-0212-2
Abstract: the term “European Paradox” describes the perceived failure of the EU to capture full benefits of its leadership of science as measured by publications and some other indicators. This paper investigates what might be called the “American Paradox,” the decline in scientific publication share of the U.S. despite world-leading investments in research and development (R&D) –particularly as that decline has accelerated in recent years. A multiple linear regression analysis as made of which inputs to the scientific enterprise are most strongly correlated with the number of scientific papers produced. Research investment was found to be much more significant than labor input, government investment in R&D was much more significant than that by industry, and government non-defense investment was somewhat more significant than its defense investment.
Since the EU actually leads the U.S. in this key component, this could account for gradual loss of U.S. paper share and EU assumption of leadership of scientific publication in the mid-1990s. More recently the loss of U.S. share has accelerated, and three approaches analyzed this phenomenon: 1) A companion paper shows that the SCI database has not significantly changed to be less favorable to the U.S.; thus the decline is real and is not an artifact of the measurement methods. (2)
Budgets of individual U.S. research agencies were correlated with overall paper production and with papers in their disciplines. Funding for the U.S. government civilian, non-healthcare sector as flat in the last ten years, resulting in declining share of papers. Funding for its healthcare sector sharply increased, but there were few additional U.S. healthcare papers. While this inefficiency contributes to loss of U.S. share, it is merely a specific example of the general syndrome that increased American investments have not produced increased publication output. 3) In fact the decline in publication share appears to be due to rapidly increasing R&D investments by China, Taiwan, S. Korea, and Singapore. A model shows that in recent years it is a country’s share of world investment that is most predictive of its publication share.
While the U.S. has increased its huge R&D investment, its investment share still declined because of even more rapidly increasing investments by these Asian countries. This has likely led to their sharply increased share of scientific publication, which must result in declines of shares of others – the U.S. and more recently, the EU.


Joseph X. Zhou's picture

Thanks for your informative article, Mike. It is
wonderful to see your great efforts to reverse this unfortunate trend. I
certainly can understand what really worries you. When I was in UK, they closed 
seven top physics departments because they could not recruit enough students.
For some time I also went to a high school to promote science among kids there. 
You are absolutely right.  The  social culture  doesn't  encourage the best kids
to do  science now. It is a sad fact which we have to face.

However, I remember that once Feynman told a
story: In the time of Rome empire, the Romans were so obsessed with drinking and
enjoying life etc that their young generation were not interested in learning
Latin any more. However, the other countries admired the empire so much that
their kids worked very hard to learn Latin and they did it very well. A
philosopher was so impressed that he decided to go there to find out if it was
true. So he went there and asked to meet several bright young men. He asked them
what is the laws of Plato. They recited every word in good Latin fluently. Then
he asked other topics in dialogue and they did the same. He was quite impressed
and then he thought for a while, he asked them: "What's the relationship between
philosophy and religion?" The young men looked at each other and didn't know how
to answer. Alas, it is exactly what they have recited in the laws of dialogue.
They knew Latin very well but they didn't really understand.

Unfortunately, I have to say that the similar
problems exist in the science development in Asia as well. People admire science
very much and try every means to do it well. However, it is still a long way to
do really good science there. For example, even China is the world factory
now, 99% of companies in China have no R&D at all. They simply import the
technologies for manufacturing.  Even the government is pouring money into the
research, the research environment and academic atmosphere are not good enough
to generate really innovative research. More than 2/3 of top papers published
from China and South Korea are written across the border with the collaborators
either in US or Europe. The government demands the quick return of its
investment and put lots of unreasonable pressures on the researcher. So
inevitably we saw the "Huang stem cell scandal" in South Korea and "Chen
microchip scandal" in China. There are several serious problems of science
policy in Asia ( some are shared in US or EU as well).

1) Most well-funded research are the large
projects planned by the government, such as human genome project etc. It is
high-input and high-output, mostly are investment-intensive and labor-intensive.
There still lacks of the breakthrough of science in the really innovative

2) Research evaluation system is over-simplified
and misleading. Instead of a comprehensive evaluation of peer-review, research
projects, funding and publication, which is widely used in the academic world.
Most universities and research institutes in China simply count numbers: the
number of publications and the impact factors of the Journals.

3) Instead of government funding, what Asian
countries really need is an innovation system like America. From Demos science
report of Asian, "There is no an innovation system in Asian. An innovation
system means a chain linking all the way from idea to customer service: the
early recognition of the idea, incubation, evaluation for commericialisation and
comercilisation. Sure people have ideas, but then what do we do with them. At
every part of the chain there is a hurdle. " Without an real innovation system,
science research is more an expensive cultural show for the national pride rather than an
integrated part of a progressive society. 

Of course these problems are discussed among
intellectuals in Asia and solutions are proposed and tried in some way. I do
believe that there will be a rising power of science in Asia if all those
problems are solved. If you are really interested, you can
have a look of a serial of latest reports of Science development in Asia by a
British think tank Demos. They are all in the creative common license and you
could download and read them if not for commercial purpose. 

Report of China:

China: The next science superpower?

Report of South Korea:

Korea: Mass innovation comes of age

Report of India:

India: The uneven innovator 

Mike Ciavarella's picture

Dear Joseph

thanks for your reply. I think you got my main point (a new Renaissance needs to start from Europe, hence my web site), but you got confused by these huge reports who are made to confuse the public! Leonardo da Vinci, in his Atlantic code, wrote "The more details you describe, the more you confuse the mind of the reader... Hence you need to draw and describe".

1) The loss of creativity is more to expect from US like in the declining Rome than from China. What do you expect will China do when they hire Nobel prizes. More Nobel prizes!

2) The happiness in China is very bad. Do you know of the Easterlink Paradox? Read Prof. Oswald illuminating work about the inverse correlation between growth and happiness and you will see how stupid the European politicians, and for that matters, the American leaders, to say that large amounts of money and growth measure happiness. Happinessand Economic Performance", Economic Journal, 1997, 107, 1815-1831.(Paper- PDF 106kb).

3) The NAE Challenges do not contain much vision after all. Do you really think that if Larry Paige had an idea, he will speak it to the NAE for free (or for not enough money anyway, compared to what he can do at Google?). NAE is crying for money in research, but has not understood the American Paradox. Their ideas are not visionary enough. So nobody listens, because it is the usual cry for more money.

4) You are more Max Planck. That is a very good system. When I wrote about the A* program, I had in mind a Chinese Top professor, whom I worked with 2 years ago briefly when he was at Max Planck. He now moved back to USA, and A* takes him also to Singapore. I don't think his life can be very happy. Too much travelling.

5) The European "Renaissance" is the key. Wait for my site, and subscribe.  I will send soon the workplan for my site in pdf.


Mike Ciavarella's picture

Dear Prof. Ciavarella:

Thanks for posting a comment on my paper. As is the style in the blogosphere,
your introduction should inspire some feedback--you could post my comments, if
you wish.

I agree that science is a marginal issue in the U.S.: it is not a priority of
the public and politicians. During the Cold War, S&T was on the front line of
defense. Unlike most advanced countries, the U.S. now has no national
strategic plan to increase its investment in R&D--it hard to motivate the
public to make these investments. Pointing with alarm abroad and trying to
cast scientific rivalry as a game that patriots ought to want to win are a
couple of techniques that can be effective. In this connection I have just
submitted a paper to the 10th International Conference on S&T Indicators
(Vienna, Sept. 2008) with the title, "Forecasting National Scientific
Publications: China may lead the world by 2017."

Duane Shelton

Joseph X. Zhou's picture

I agree that those reports are a little too long.  Smile I think that they are valuable for people who totally have no idea about current situation in Asia. 

Thanks for the paper about Chinese happiness. You did make a point here. Not only China, but also Japan and South Korea all sacrificed a lot for their family lives for the economy development. I definitely will read it. 

I  can not wait to see your website coming... Smile



Mike Ciavarella's picture

dear Joseph

1) the  best instead of reading Oswald's papers, is to see his FANTASTIC presentation at

 2) you can actually do more than wait and see:  you can take part.!  if you have some reasonable free time (but if you haven't you are not a top scientist according to Leonardo), they you can run the german operation!

Contact me please.


yoursdhruly's picture

Engineering and Medicine: These two areas have always been THE colleges to seek admission to in India. Clearly, because most Indians believe, and it would be hard to argue against the logic, that they have the most stable, and well paying jobs (in combination). So there's the economic incentive.

Then there's the cultural effect: A friend of mine remarked that things in the US were different primarily because teenagers left the comfort of their parents house and want quick jobs and often do not want the rigor of graduate education, to speak nothing of the loans. In India, and I suspect in many other Asian countries, children live with their parents longer, enabling them to pursue a graduate education with the financial support they need. Whether this is a key factor, I don't know, but the argument sounds plausible.

While the US economy thrives in comparison to other locations and quality of life remains as good as it is, it will draw good talent from abroad. Indicators are, things are not going to be this way much longer (if the tide hasn't already turned). I would argue that turning around the economy with the intention of pulling in foreign talent is a harder task than promoting science education for American high school students. This means a rekindling of the excitement of science. It is a pity that the three candidates do not make the most of an opportunity to discuss science. Science is not just another subject like faith, values or morals (which they did debate on). It is our window to life itself - it is the reason we are who we are while simultaneously explaining how we got there. Maybe that's what the candidates are afraid of.

Mike Ciavarella's picture

If you read

the NAE Challenges, these are ALL the desperate cry for somebody who has no authority. Sorry if I cite always Leonardo da Vinci but these quotes explain why the Engineering Challenges will NOT make any impact (other than the fact that there are many places where the ideas are clearly incremental)

10 reasons from the greatest Renaissance man:

1) Anyone who conducts an argument by
appealing to authority is not using
his intelligence; he is just
using his memory.

2) He who is fixed to a star does not
change his mind. (star being David Beckham, or the A* Singapore program!)

3) He who wishes to be rich in a day will
be hanged in a year. (this was for the American dream)

4) I have offended God and mankind because
my work didn't reach the quality
it should have. (we need to be modest, and Americans have troubles with that, and tend to write 30 pages CV with everything they have done including playing chess one evening, or trying tennis the day after)

5)  It's easier to resist at the beginning
than at the end.


6) Men of lofty genius when they are doing
the least work are most active. (Academic people in US work too hard)

7) Nothing strengthens authority so much
as silence. (instead, NAE wants to cry louder and louder)

8) Simplicity is the ultimate
sophistication. (Instead, 14 themes make me dizzy)

9) The noblest pleasure is the joy of
understanding. (The Chinese have joy to understand, the American as you say not much any longer. So as long as the Chinese were going to US ok, but now they will stay in China)

10) Where there is shouting, there is no
true knowledge. (if even Nobel-prize winners have to write letters to the Wall Street journal to try to complain and make people listen to them, the decline is already there!).





Leonardo da





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