Top overseas partners for KI research collaborations

Published 2013-02-19 00:00. Updated 2013-11-26 10:29

[NEWS 2013-02-18] Three Nordic universities top the list of overseas partners for KI research collaborations. While the list is dominated by European universities, there are also a number of prominent North American academies as well. Harvard, for instance, one of the world's highest ranking research environments, comes fourth in the list.

Helsinki University is the university with which Karolinska Institutet collaborates most, resulting in over a hundred scientific articles a year, according to the figures for 2007-2011. Researchers from KI and Helsinki University co-published over 650 scientific articles during this period.

Mats Wahlgren
Mats Walhgren. Photo: Jacob Forsell

Two and three on the list of collaboration partners are also from our Nordic neighbours: the universities of Copenhagen and Oslo.

"These are three universities that not only conduct excellent medical research, but are also very close to use geographically, so it's natural for them to be our largest partners," says Professor Mats Wahlgren, acting dean of research at KI.

70 per cent of the list's first 50 places are occupied by European institutes, which, according to Professor Wahlgren, reflects the pivotal role played by KI in pan-European research.

"KI is the largest European recipient of EU health research appropriations," he notes.

The co-publication statistics also show that KI scientists collaborate extensively with a number of strong US research environments, led by Harvard (in fourth place). And if Harvard's affiliate BWH (Brigham and Women's Hospital) were to be included, Harvard would actually share first position with Helsinki.

Jan Carlstedt-Duke
Jan Carlstedt-Duke. Photo: Lasse Skog

"Harvard is considered the finest university in the world in the medical field, so this is confirmation that KI is an attractive partner to work with at the highest international level," says Professor Jan Carlstedt-Duke, chair of KI's International Strategy Committee.

He also draws attention to the rich collaboration with British environments, such as Oxford (no. 5 on the list) and the three London universities, King's Health, Imperial and University College (all three in the top 10).

"London leads medical research in Europe," he says. "The fact that we collaborate so widely with several top universities in the USA and Europe is not only very gratifying, it's also very important as it gives us a depth and research opportunities that we often dont get at home, which helps us stay on the research front line."

Two names that stick out relatively high up the list are Makerere University, Uganda, and the National University of Singapore, in both cases owing to special collaborative initiatives by KI.

"Singapore was identified as an interesting partner a few years ago since it is a rising science nation that has made considerable investments in life science," says Professor Wahlgren. "With Makerere in Uganda we've had an institutional contract and a rich collaborative relationship for the past decade. This is a vital contact for KI people researching into the diseases and medical conditions of the third world, and it helps to strengthen research in Uganda too. We need to reflect our work in global issues rather than just study "genetically and lifestyle conformative" Swedes. Here we can build on the excellent ground upon which our academic partnership stands, with the support of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency. This is very important both for Swedish aid and for Swedish research and innovation."

As Professor Wahlgren points out, the fact that the figures relate to co-publications between the years 2007 and 2011 means that they reflect the research being done about five to fifteen years ago, and that the changes in collaborative patterns that have occurred in recent years have not yet shown through.

"Perhaps the greatest difference in five years´ time relative to today will be that China ends up much higher on the list, given the marked rise in joint projects with Chinese universities over the past few years," he says.

The study was done using data from the Thompson Reuters Web of Science database by bibliometric analysts at the KI University Library, and includes original and review articles published between 2007 and 2011 for which KI and at least one foreign organisation are given as author affiliations. These make up roughly 60 per cent of the 19,000-plus KI articles from the period registered in the database.