Strong connections with global scientific heavy-hitters and meaningful regional and domestic collaborations have thrust Saudi Arabia into a leading position in the Arab world.
Five Saudi Arabian institutes are driving the country's rapid progress in science, with its west-coast institutes leading the way. They have lifted Saudi Arabia eight places higher in the Nature Index from 39 in 2012 to 31 in 2015.
1. Thuwal Located on the Kingdom's west coast, Thuwal is home to KAUST, a graduate-level university with a US$20 billion endowment, founded in 2009.
2. Jeddah A major port on the west coast of Saudi Arabia, Jeddah is home to KAU, one of the fastest rising universities in the Kingdom in the Nature Index.
3. Riyadh Riyadh is Saudi Arabia's capital and biggest city. It is home to KACST, responsible for putting together the country's science strategy, and KSU, the oldest university in the country. KFSH&RC, also located in the capital and with a branch in Jeddah, has the strongest network of domestic and regional collaborators in the country.
4. Dhahran KFUPM in Dhahran has a strong focus on chemistry, and is home to the Dhahran Techno Valley, a business initiative to link research and industry.
WFC in 2015
A sharp increase in KAUST's WFC in 2015 has cemented the university's position as the Kingdom's leading science institute.
Even though KAUST’s WFC is five times higher, KAU leads in the number of articles (AC) published in the Nature Index. Strong international collaborations helped it publish 216 articles in 2015. KSU comes a distant third, with a fifth of KAU’s AC.
WFC rise and fall
Most of Saudi Arabia's leading institutes have seen their WFC grow steadily year-on-year since 2012. This has fuelled the country's international standing in the index (see page S13, ‘Oiling the wheels on a road to success’).
Saudi Arabia’s rise
Saudi Arabia's WFC has steadily risen by 85% since 2012, with only a lull in 2014. Nearly 90% of the country's science output in 2015 was driven by KAUST and KAU.
The AC* of Saudi Arabia has risen quickly over the past four years, driven by strong international collaborations.
*A country or institution's AC is the number of articles in the index that have at least one author from that country or institution.
Saudi Arabia's top collaborators* have remained mostly unchanged since 2012, with the United States its biggest research partner. Collaborations with China were increasing sharply, but slowed down in 2015.
*CSs are only for output derived from the bilateral relationship of Saudi Arabia and each partner country.
Chemistry accounts for two-thirds of Saudi Arabia's research in the index.
*Subjects may overlap. The sum of subject area WFCs may therefore exceed the country's overall WFC.
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Kogleck, L. Sights set on a central role. Nature 532, S2–S3 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1038/532S2a