Spanish science and research, the lever for modernity and development
5/8/2019 |

​​​ For centuries, Spain has projected to the world its incalculable cultural wealth. But Spain isn’t just renowed for its culture, it has also consolidated its position in the areas of science and innovation.​

Moving away from the dated image of a “sun and beach” country, Spain is now the tenth world power in terms of the production of scientific documents, according to SCImago Journal & Country Rank (SJR), whose ranking is led by the USA. This index measures the scientific quality of a publication through Scopus, the largest database of scientific articles in the world, which takes quotes from articles from more than 34,100 magazines published by over 5,000 international publishers and analyses their origin. According to this report, Spanish researchers have published more than 1.25 million scientific documents in the past two decades. A figure that exceeds production in countries like Australia, South Korea, Russia and Holland.

In terms of percentages, Spain produces around 3% of all scientific publications in the world. This figure not only demonstrates that Spain has valuable scientific talent, but it also positions us a destination of interest for training researchers in the field of science.

Almost half the scientific documents produced by the Spanish are written in collaboration with researchers from other countries. To be precise, in 2015, 47% of the scientific documents written by Spanish authors were collaborations, according to Indicators from the Spanish Science, Technology and Innovation System 2017. This means that Spanish researchers are behind 7.7% of scientific collaborations in the world. The majority of documents produced are relatedto medicine, followed by biochemistry, genetics and molecular biology.


Human capital in technology and science

Spain is the fourth country in the OECD with the most graduates in technological or STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), behind Germany, Austria and Estonia. In 2015, 26% of tertiary education graduates in Spain obtained a qualification in STEM areas. This figure is higher than the average for OECD countries (23%) and the difference is even greater between graduates from PhD programs: 50% compared with 43% in OECD countries.


Women are making progress in science

Spain also stands out for the progress made by women in the scientific and technological fields. In actual fact, it is the third country in the European Union with the most female researchers: 85,759, behind the UK (191,774) and Germany (164,095) and ahead of countries with larger populations such as France and Italy, according to the report She Figures published by the European Commission in 2019. What’s more, it is the fourth country in the OECD with the highest percentage of female scientists and engineers in high-technology sectors.


A world reference in HIV research

Spanish scientific research and production is cutting edge in many areas. In HIV studies (human immunodeficiency virus), identified in 1983 and responsible for one of the most destructive world pandemics, with more than 40 million losing their lives and over 37 million currently affected according to the World Health Organisation.

In 2018 the magazine Viruses considered that the impact of the publications by Spanish teams about HIV was the third most important in Europe, mainly financed by the national and European public administration along with Pharmaceutical companies. In 2016 alone Spanish teams published 404 studies on HIV in important magazines, such as AIDS, Clinical Infectious Diseases and Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy, contributing to  vital knowledge about the disease and how to improve its treatments.

The three most influential Spanish institutions in this area are Hospital Carlos III in Madrid, Hospital Clínic in Barcelona and Instituto de Investigación IrsiCaixa (the Catalan Institute of Advanced Research and Studies, ICREA). Javier Martínez-Picado is a researcher at the lCREA centre and has recently led the second case of curing HIV in London.

There is still a long way to go but Spain is excelling in scientific fields. The volume of scientific documents produced by Spaniards has boosted the presence and relevance of the country in the international scientific panorama, connecting it with the rest of the world.