This report proposes a novel way to conceptualise and measure research excellence at the country level using a composite indicator approach. So far, few studies measure scientific and technological research excellence at the country level whilst taking into account the multidimensional nature of research excellence. Following the OECD Oslo Manual, we define research as creative work undertaken on a systematic basis in order to increase the stock of knowledge, including knowledge of man, culture and society, and the use of this stock of knowledge to devise new applications. Akin to the idea of national innovation systems, a national research system is made up of the actors within a country that jointly produce research outcomes. In our conceptual framework, national research systems contain four core elements: components (the operating parts of the system), relationships interactions), attributes (motivations and goals), and outcomes (the creation of excellent knowledge). Scientific and technological research excellence is defined as the top-end quality outcome of systematically performed creative work undertaken to increase the stock of knowledge and new applications. Having evaluated the quality profile of a large set of potential variables, we focus on four variables to measure the top-quality output of scientific and technological research activities at the national level:
1) a field-normalised number of highly cited publications of a country as measured by the top 10 % most cited publications (in all disciplines) per total number of publications (HICIT);
2) the number of high quality patent applications of a country as measured by the number of patents filed under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) per million inhabitants (PCTPAT);
3) the number of world class universities and research institutes in a country as measured by the number of organisations of a country in the top 250 universities and 50 research institutes divided by gross expenditures in R & D of a country per (TOPINST); and
4) the number of high prestige research grants received by a country as measured by the total value of European Research Council grants received divided by public R & D expenditures of a country (ERC).
The field-normalised number of highly cited publications of a country and the number of high quality patents of a country represent new knowledge attributable to a country that is inscribed in texts and artifacts, the number of world class universities and public research institutes in a country and the number of high prestige research grants received by a country are proxies for monitoring new knowledge that is embodied in the human capital of that country.