The frequencies of multinational papers in various sciences
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Multinational papers are defined here as ones written by authors who reside in different countries during the course of research. For each of 16 fields of science, I scanned the first 200 papers in 2005 in four major journals publishing original research papers. Those journals produced 40% of all the citations among those journals with Impact Factors greater than 1.0. The frequencies of multinational papers ranged from 13% in surgery to 55% in astronomy. Although one can list a dozen factors which might contribute toward multinational papers, I lack the data to test most of those. There are only minor correlations with team sizes and Impact Factors, inadequate to explain the range. There is a larger, but not convincing, dependence upon the fractions of single-author papers and its cause, if real, is unclear. However, the most prominent factor seems to be the nature of the objects studied; if they are usually local (e.g. in one hospital or in one laboratory), the papers tend to be domestic but if most of the objects are available simultaneously to scientists in many countries (e.g. the sky in astronomy or the oceans and the Earth’s atmosphere in geosciences or widespread diseases in the area of infectious diseases or plants and animals widely distributed in biology), the papers are often international. Auxiliary results for 2005 are an average of 5.5 ± 0.3 authors per paper and 6.6 ± 1.0% one-author papers.
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