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Contemporary remarkable scientific growth in
Iran: House of Wisdom will rise again
Scientific activity and knowledge creation has a long
history in Iran and the Academy of Gundishapur
was established in the 3rd century Anno Domini (AD)
under the rule of Sassanidkings. It was an important
medical center of the 6th and 7th centuries AD.[1] Wellknown scientists came from Iran, e.g., Avicenna. His
most famous works are The Book of Healing, a vast
philosophical and scientific encyclopedia, and The
Canon of Medicine, which was a standard medical
text at many medieval universities. The Canon of
Medicine was used as a text-book in the universities of
Montpellier and Leuvenas late as 1650.[2]
Nevertheless, recent rapid scientific growth in Iran
has been analyzed in the most prestigious scientific
publications.[3-9] In August 2009, Iran announced a
“comprehensive plan for science” focused on higher
education and stronger links between industry and
academia. The establishment of a US $2.5 million center
for nanotechnology research is one of the products of
this plan. Other commitments include, boosting R&D
investment to 4% of gross domestic product (GDP)
(0.59% of GDP in 2006), and increasing education to
7% of GDP by 2030 (5.49% of GDP in 2007).[7]
Iran’s scientific output rose 18-fold between 1996 and
2008, from 736 published papers to 13,238.[6] Scientific
output has grown 11 times faster in Iran than the world
average, faster than any other country. A survey of the
number of scientific publications listed in the Web of
Science database shows that growth in the MiddleEast, mostly in Turkey and Iran, is nearly four times
faster than the world average.[5] In addition, Figure 1
shows number of published Iranian articles according
to SCImago journal and country rank. This portal gets
data from Scopus® database from 1996.[9]
The countries showing the fastest rate of growth in
publication output and those rising up the global
league tables as collaborative hubs show strong trends
of growth in mobile phone usage and ininternet
penetration. Internet growth in Iran, for example, has
grown 13,000% since the turn of the century (albeit
Jan-Mar 2013 / Vol 4 | Issue 1
All categories of science
Material science
1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
Figure 1: Number of published Iranian articles according to SCImago
journal & country rank
from a starting point of only 250,000 users). Internet
use in China has grown over 1,800% in the same period
(from 22.5 million users to 420 million) and in Tunisia,
penetration has grown 3,600% (from 100,000 users to
3.6 million).[7]
Of more interest, despite political tensions between
the USA and Iran, scientific collaboration has proven
surprisingly resilient. Between the periods 1996-2002
to 2004-2008, co-authored papers between these two
countries increased from just 388 papers to 1,831
papers, an increase of 472%.[7]
In an article titled “365 days: 2011 in review”[3] Nature
journal of science has rounded up major economic and
political situations including, the shut down of Shuttle
program, the particle collider, the world’s best selling
drug, rolling out of cheap vaccines in Africa, the triple
trauma of Japan, tsunami, earthquake, and financial
cuts, which all shaped and affected science in the year
2011. In its analysis of the published articles in the first
10 months of 2011, Nature compared 40 top countries in
this respect. Europe has allocated 38.4% of the share to
itself, while North and South America have published
29.5%, Asian-Pacific courtiers 27.8% and Middle-Eastern
and African countries gained 4.4% of the papers.[3,10]
By producing 22.7% of the articles, the United States
Dental Hypotheses
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Kolahi and Abrishami: Scientific growth in Iran
Figure 2: Top growing countries in area of knowledge creation evaluated by percentage increase in the number of published articles compared to 2010
(Diagram courtesy of Nature)
has the first rank while China has published 10.4% to be
the second country while in the Middle-East Turkey has
the first place and Iran is the second by producing 1.3%
of the whole papers. By this rate of production, Iran
has gained the 20th place in the world. If the GDP per
capita and paper per population were to be included as
the other criteria for the calculations smaller European
countries would take the top ranks instead.[3,10]
By a 20% increase in the number of published articles
compared to 2010, Iran has gained the first rank, China
the second rank by 15%, and South-Korea and India third
and fourth positions by more than 10%, respectively,
and Spain fifth by nearly 10% [Figure 2].[3,10]
This fact may surprise many people, especially, in the
western nations used to leading science.
Yet, it is not so surprising when compared with other
rapidly industrializing countries. Science-Metrix, a
data-analysis company in Montreal, Canada, has showed
“geopolitical shifts in knowledge creation” since 1980.[8]
A rapid rise in Middle-Eastern, Chinese, Indian, and
Brazilian science stands out from a report published by
the UK’s Royal Society, comparing global publication and
citation rates between 1993 and 2003 with those between
2004 and 2008. Similar to Iran, other, smaller players are
also stepping up their research movement. Turkey, for
example, quadrupled its output between 1996 and 2008,
after increasing six-fold its funding for R&D. Similar
trends emerged in Tunisia, Singapore, and Qatar.[6,8]
(nearly four time faster than at the world level), with
Iran and Turkey leading the pick, increase 11 and 5.5
times faster, respectively, than output at the world
level from 1980-1994 and 1995-2009.[8] In particular,
Iran embarked on of the fastest build-up of scientific
capabilitiesthe world witnessed during last two
decades.[8] Considering the above mentioned data, it
seems logic to hypothesize that scientific excellence
can re-emerge in Iran[4] and the House of Wisdom[11]
will raise again, as Quantum Physicist Jim Al-Khalili
has stated.[12]
Jafar Kolahi, Mohamadreza Abrishami1
Independent Research Scientist, Founder and Managing
Editor of Dental Hypotheses, Isfahan, 1Department of Periodontology,
Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences,
Tehran, Iran
Corresponding Author: Prof. Mohamadreza Abrishami,
Department of Periodontology, ShahidBehesh
University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran.
E-mail: [email protected]
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[Last accessed on 2013 Feb 08].
Coghlan A. Iran is top of the world in science growth.
Overall scientific growth in Middle-East has been rapid
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Jan-Mar 2013 / Vol 4 | Issue 1
[Downloaded free from http://www.dentalhypotheses.com on Sunday, May 24, 2015, IP:]
Kolahi and Abrishami: Scientific growth in Iran
NewScientist (Science in Society)2011. Available from: http://
www.newscientist.com/article/dn18546-iran-showing-fastestscientific-growth-of-any-country.html. [Last accessed on 2013
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in the 21 st century. The Royal Society, London: 2011.
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Royal_Society_Content/Influencing_Policy/Reports/2011-0328-Knowledge-networks-nations.pdf. [Last accessed on 2013
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[Last accessed on 2013 Feb 08].
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2013 Feb 08].
11. Rossomando EF. The house of wisdom. Dent Hypotheses
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rise again. New Scientist (Science in Society) 2010. Available
from: http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20527431.200jim-alkhalili-islams-house-of-wisdom-will-rise-again.html.
[Last accessed on 2013 Feb 08].
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