Sunday, January 31, 2010

Scottish scientists who reach for stars ‘are leading the world’

An image of the Flame Nebula that has given astronomers their most vivid picture of the star formation was offered up by the Scottish government yesterday as proof of the world-leading role maintained by the country’s scientists and researchers.

The photograph was taken by the Vista telescope at the European Southern Observatory, using technology designed and built at the UK Astronomy Technology Centre in Edinburgh. That contribution was symbolic of the global importance of the country’s research base, said Anne Glover, the Scottish government’s chief scientific adviser.

“In every area of science Scotland outperforms the world average; our performance is truly stunning for a nation of only five million people,” Professor Glover said. “This is a country full of potential for those in science, engineering and technology.”

Professor Glover was speaking at the presentation of a report that purports to demonstrate the continuing success of home-grown scientists and engineers by comparing rates of publication of academic studies, and by collating the numbers of citations achieved by Scottish researchers in articles published by their peers from other countries.

The 120-page document showed that in sciences as diverse as medicine, agriculture and biology, Scotland has achieved 1.8 per cent of the world’s academic citations, from a population share of less than 0.1 per cent. Scotland even led the field in space sciences, Professor Glover said, though more dogs than Scots have experienced space travel so far.

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