The leading 2004 Olympic medal winners by country are:
Source: BBC Sports
Yet, adjusting for population size, the medals table looks different! By all medals won per million people, Australia is the best performer, followed by Cuba and Estonia and other mostly smaller countries by population. By this measure, the US ranks 37th and China 58th!
Source: BBC Sports (Medal Count); US Bureau of the Census, International Data (2004 data).
OK, we seen the countries that are athletic, but how do they score in the brains race? Measured by recent (2003-2004) publications in the emerging field of nanoscience, the overall top-ten nanopublishing performance table looks interestingly like the Olympics rankings. The exceptions: Australia and Cuba drop out, South Korea and India drop in!
Source: Analysis of publications in nanoscience in 2003-2004 (Jan-May) in Science Citations Index (N=42082) by Youtie, Shapira and Bhawsar.
Adjusted by population (nanopublications per million people), the nanopublication rankings look different. Liechtenstein (33,000 people) and Singapore (4.3 million people) head the list (neither country won medals in this year’s games). Monoco’s single credited nanopublication is enough to score a 10th place ranking on a pubs/million basis, given it’s population of just over 32,000 people. The US (pop. 293 million) is a credible 14th. China and India (good publication performance but huge populations) move down.
Source: Analysis of publications in nanoscience in 2003-2004 (Jan-May) in Science Citations Index (N=42082) by Youtie, Shapira and Bhawsar; US Bureau of the Census (Population Count, 2004 data).
Brains v. Brawn? Obviously, countries differ in their performance in nanoscience publication and Olympics sport. Considering all countries that won at least one medal and have at least one nanopublication, India, Israel, and Taiwan are countries that are comparatively much more specialized in nanoscience publication than in Olympic 2004 sport. For what it’s worth, the US is significantly more specialized in nanoscience than in Olympic sport (hard to believe if we just followed media coverage!). China also does better in nanoscience publication than Olympic sport. On the other hand, the countries that are more specialized in Olympic sport than in nanopublication are led by Kenya, North Korea, and Jamaica. The place of Australia needs interpretation: they are good in nanopublication (21st by pubs/million), but they are superb in sports (1st by 2004 medals/million population). Still, Australians are also relatively more sporty than brainy on this measure!
Sources: See tables above. Note: Specialization = ratio of country share of total nano publications (2003-4) divided by medals won in Olympics 2004. Ratio >1 = more specialized in publications; Ratio
[thanks to Dr.Philip Shapira, Georgia Tech for sharing this "time-pass" analysis]