Interactive by Jan Willem Tulp

What makes one country better than another in science? It's not an easy thing to measure. Publishing research papers is a good way to get a bead on basic research, but it doesn't say much about whether a nation is taking advantage of those good ideas. For this, other metrics come into play. Patents give a clue as to how well a country is exploiting its ideas for commercial gain. What a nation spends on R&D captures not only what universities and government research programs do but also the contribution from industry. How many students a nation educates in science and technology disciplines is a key metric, but little data are available.

The rankings of the top 40 nations in this interactive are based on preliminary data from Digital Science, a sister company to Nature Publishing Group (which owns Scientific American). It has assembled a database of research papers published in top peer-reviewed journals around the world and has organized them by nation of origin. The table above shows the rankings for this metric and others—patents, R&D expenditures and doctoral candidates produced. For more information, visit

This interactive was first published in 2012. It has since been updated with 2014 data.