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Published science begets commercial applications

by Cheryl Hogue
August 20, 2017 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 95, ISSUE 33

After scrutinizing the connections between scientific papers and U.S. patents, researchers conclude that most published studies, notably those in some areas of chemistry, eventually support marketable technological advances (Science 2017, DOI: 10.1126/science.aam9527). In the first quantitative analysis of this type, researchers at Northwestern University looked at references cited in all 4.8 million patents that the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office issued between 1976 and 2015. They traced those references to the 32 million journal articles published from 1945 to 2013 that appear in the Web of Science, a citation indexing service. The researchers determined that 60.5% of the patents included references that connected to papers in science and engineering. Patents in combinatorial chemistry, molecular biology, and superconductor technology were among those most closely tied to published research papers, they found. Of the papers in science and engineering that were cited by at least one other published article, 79.7% could be traced to a patent that was issued after the study was released. Papers in nanoscience and nanotechnology, materials science, and biomaterials were the most closely linked to patents.

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