2011-01-30 00:41:28USA Patents vs Political affiliation
Paul D


New Scientist has published a map showing the number of patents for a number of US cities/towns, taking into account size:


And here is a Wikipedia map of US states and probable political affiliation:


They look very similar.

eg. Republican areas under perform on the patent front.
Sort of confirms the Republican anti-science and innovation meme.

It's amazing how well the two maps match, when I saw the New Scientist map I thought 'I wonder, where are the traditional Republican areas?' and decided to check.

2011-01-30 01:06:16
Paul D


What would British or Australian comparisons look like?

I don't think two British maps would look the same at all.

Probably the opposite or far more mixed??

2011-01-30 02:45:59
John Hartz
John Hartz
In the USA, Repblicans tend to dominate low population density areas and Democrats high population density areas. I suspect population density and patents have a causal relationship. I doubt that party affiliation (especially taking into account that most Americans are not affiliated with either party) has a direct causal relationship with patents. 
2011-01-30 03:10:09
Paul D

The New Scientist map takes into account population, that is, it shows patents per capita and then works out if the city is below or above a mean value.
2011-01-30 03:17:45
Paul D



Bismark ND (red) - pop = 101,254, patents = 2
Boise City Nampa ID (blue) - pop = 567,741, patents = 370

For Boise City Nampa to be equal bad as Bismark it would need to drop down to 11 patents, instead of 370.


Actually I have just noticed that New Scientist were making the same speculation!
I didn't notice their election map below the patent one.



2011-01-30 03:58:01article from Nature


Insights on creative geographical clusters:



Cities: Building the best cities for science

Which urban regions produce the best research — and can their success be replicated?

When the Øresund bridge connecting Copenhagen, Denmark, with Malmö, Sweden, opened in 2000, both sides had much to gain. Sweden would get a physical connection to the rest of mainland Europe; residents of Copenhagen would have access to cheaper homes close to the city; and economic cooperation would increase. But Christian Matthiessen, a geographer at the University of Copenhagen, saw another benefit — the joining of two burgeoning research areas. "Everyone was talking about the transport of goods and business connections," he says, "and we argued that another benefit would be to establish links between researchers."

Ten years later, those links seem to be strong. The bridge encouraged the establishment of the 'Øresund region', a loose confederation of nine universities, 165,000 students and 12,000 researchers. Co-authorship between Copenhagen and the southernmost province of Sweden has doubled, says Matthiessen. The collaborations have attracted multinational funds from the European Union. And the European Spallation Source, a €1.4-billion (US$2-billion) neutron facility, is on track to begin construction in Lund, Sweden, in 2013.

The region's promoters claim that it is emerging as a research hub of northern Europe, aided in part by construction of the bridge. For Matthiessen, the bridge also inspired the start of a unique research project — to catalogue the growth and connections of geographical clusters of scientific productivity all over the world.

Most research activities are concentrated around major metropolitan areas. By Matthiessen's count, the top 75 science-producing clusters in the world from 2006 to 2008 generated some 57% of the research — 3.9 million papers. Many argue that a fine-grained analysis might help to identify the factors that drive successful research clusters — indicating rising stars and aiding city planners and policy-makers in building profitable centres elsewhere. In a 2009 paper, Koen Frenken at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands and his colleagues proposed that studies such as these, which quantitatively map science clusters in physical space, be collected under the general field of 'spatial scientometrics' (K. Frenken, S. Hardeman and J. Hoekman J. Informetrics 3, 222–232; 2009).

Most analyses of success and failure to date have relied on individual case studies. Matthiessen, by contrast, wanted to use data to make global comparative estimates of all cities, in an effort to pick winners and losers. It is not an easy task. Although individual nations and international organizations such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development do analyse countries for research spending, research quality and numbers of scientists, there are no such data organized at the city level. The fact that geographers don't even agree on how best to define the boundaries of a metropolitan area makes that task doubly difficult. Conflicting definitions of concepts such as 'science cities' and 'innovation clusters' often leave analysts talking past one another. Where Matthiessen wants to look at strength in basic research, most economists and regional planners are concerned with technological innovation: patents and related wealth.

As the global economy continues to flag, bringing such data together is important. "Anthropologists, archaeologists, historians and geographers have argued for many years that cities are the engines of innovation," says José Lobo, a statistician and economist who works on regions and innovation at Arizona State University in Tempe. "But what's difficult is to connect these historical case studies of success with data, so as to create instruments that policy-makers can use."

Quantity and quality

Matthiessen and his team divide the globe into urban conglomerations on the basis of distances reachable by a 40-minute commute from a city centre. In this rubric, Oxford and Reading, UK, are one urban region, as are Amsterdam, the Hague, Rotterdam and Utrecht in the Netherlands. By assigning the addresses of research papers' authors to each conurbation, they produced tables of where cities rank in terms of output (C. W. Matthiessen, A. W. Schwarz and S. Find Urban Stud. 47, 1879–1897; 2010).

Topping Matthiessen's list are Tokyo, London, Beijing, the San Francisco Bay Area, Paris and New York (see 'Top cities by publication'). A similar ranking emerges from an analysis provided for Nature by Elsevier, headquartered in Amsterdam, which maintains the Scopus database of journals using the simple method of assigning cities from the address an author provides. Both analyses highlight cities in which scientific output is growing. In particular, Beijing, which churned out 0.76% of the global output in 1996, produced 2.74% in 2008 (319,000 research papers). Other fast-growing areas are Tehran, Istanbul, Seoul, Singapore City and São Paulo.

The results track the economic expansion of Asia and the Middle East and an expanding list of foreign-language journal titles. But they don't necessarily capture the quality of research being published. Elsevier makes that judgement by looking at the average number of citations that a research paper from a city attracts (see 'Top cities by citation'). This paints quite a different picture. Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts, come out on top — attracting more than twice as many citations per paper as the global average. US cities dominate the quality table, with only Cambridge, UK, breaking into the top 10. Cities with the most improved relative quality in the past decade include Austin, Texas, and Singapore City — which has moved from 15% below average to 22% above it. Beijing, however, is below par in the quality stakes: its papers in the five-year period ending 2008 attracted 63% of the global average-citation rate.

Lessons from Boston

Boston ranks top in several analyses of scientific quality (see 'Top cities by journal'), and in one sense it is easy to explain why. "Take three or four of the best universities in the world, put them in a city with a seaport, and voilà!" says Lobo. But copying the region's formula is quite another matter. How can one city start to emulate another that attracts the most research funding in the United States and has been built up over centuries?

Having top research universities with mammoth budgets is likely to create a vibrant scientific community — but what can be harder is keeping top scientists in an area long term.

From case studies, Mary Walshok, a sociologist at the University of California, San Diego, picks out three important factors that make cities sticky for scientists. Promise them the freedom to work on their own ideas. Then give them the tools and infrastructure to do so. Public funding is key to achieving these first two aims, but local private corporations and philanthropists who endow new buildings or research chairs also help. "You can see this happening in Austin, and in Seattle," says Walshok.

Walshok's third factor is an attractive lifestyle. Richard Florida, a sociologist and economist at the University of Toronto's Martin Prosperity Institute in Canada, lists scientists among the 'creative class': mobile, talented, creative thinkers that a city must lure in with amenities and smart urban planning. What counts as attractive for this set isn't always obvious. Kevin Stolarick, a statistician also at the Martin Prosperity Institute, suggests that biotech incubators and universities or hospitals should be close enough for a cup of coffee to stay hot when travelling between them. But high culture and hot coffee are not enough to make cities successful in terms of science. A flagging job market will not draw in creative thinkers. Moreover, cities generally held to be the most 'liveable' in surveys — Vancouver and various urban centres in Canada and Australia — are often not associated with outstanding creativity, says Peter Hall, a geographer at University College London.

Even with the right ingredients — freedom, funding and lifestyle — to attract and keep scientists, there is no guarantee that their work will generate economic wealth. Lobo points out that New Mexico probably has the highest number of physicists per capita in the United States, thanks to the Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories, but it is hardly an economic powerhouse, as the research doesn't lend itself to commercialization. Boston, on the other hand, has a strong foundation of basic science that has attracted companies and institutes, which in turn has created wealth and attracted more top scientists.

Boston's economic resilience, born of a diverse labour force, is key to this virtuous cycle. Science is merely the latest in a series of economic rebirths — from being the largest city in early colonial America, to a centre for global shipping and sailing in the nineteenth century, to its current position as a biotech hub. Similar tales of success are told for the San Francisco area, with its attractive climate, culture of adventurous investment and laws that favour creative workers. It is illegal in California, for example, to enforce a waiting period before employees move to a competitor's firm, allowing people and ideas to move about freely.

Wealth sized up

When it comes to generating wealth from science and technology, a few features seem necessary — but not sufficient. In general, bigger is better. For example, Luis Bettencourt at Los Alamos National Laboratory and Deborah Strumsky at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, have found that new patents are granted disproportionately to larger urban centres. In this sense, great economic centres such as London, Tokyo and New York are bound to be science strongholds of a sort — even though their economic strength comes from other areas, such as financial markets.

Many hold that, for applied research at least, being part of the urban tapestry really works. Cities are natural places for practical research, Bettencourt argues. Still, the question of whether large cities make for better scientists — rather than simply attracting more of them — is fiercely debated.

Smaller cities are not out of the running. Generally, says Lobo, new industries emerge in large cities, but once standardized, they can move to a location with cheaper rents and labour costs. For towns seeking wealth through science, the anchoring presence of a large private research and development laboratory can inject huge benefits. Matthiessen says that the electronics corporation Philips, in Eindhoven, the Netherlands (population 200,000), is an example of a private company working to a local university's advantage by seeking collaborations with research scientists.

But over-reliance on one company or industry can be precarious. Hewlett-Packard's research laboratories outside Corvallis, Oregon, have made the town (population 80,000) one of the United States' most innovative per capita, churning out eight patents per 1,000 population. But if Hewlett-Packard were to fall into decline or the patents run out, Corvallis would probably fall as well, says Lobo.

Given the uncertainties, cities looking for a way to fire up economic engines should not necessarily bet on scientific innovation and technology as a short cut, says Strumsky. "A lot of cities are desperately searching for a way to create jobs, and say: 'Let's invest in biotech research.' You might as well take your money and burn it in a really big pit," she says. If a city has no history or expertise in biotechnology, it must hire its creative inventors from elsewhere, pay them double to move to a biotech backwater, and link their inventions to a local production industry that itself must be made from scratch. Buffalo, New York, is the archetype of a city that made a mistake by investing in biotech research and development labs (see page 912), Strumsky and others have argued. Although unable to retain a skilled labour force, the city is still investing in research.

National trends

Many factors are out of the hands of urban planners and local policy- makers, however, and more sophisticated spatial scientometrics studies into why and where scientists cluster geographically could help to explain the influence of these factors. The evolution of a metropolitan region such as Øresund was shaped by national and international policies and economics. National policies, for example, have largely determined the evolution of science cities in France, Spain, Portugal, South Africa and Russia in the past few decades by pushing money, and by extension scientists, into smaller cities in need of a boost.

Michel Grossetti, a sociologist at the University of Toulouse in France, has found that capital cities in these countries lost ground in scientific publications relative to other cities. Henk Moed, a researcher at Elsevier, has in an unpublished analysis shown how from 1996 to 2010, the publication outputs for five major Spanish cities — Valencia, Barcelona, Bilbao, Seville and Zaragoza — have all grown faster than that for the capital Madrid, in parallel with a political trend towards more autonomy for Spanish regions. Grossetti and his team are starting to test how science resources have been concentrated or diffused in cities in every country across the world, from 1978 to 2008. Rather than simply crunching numbers of papers, he wants to take into account population, gross domestic product and institutional shifts. Grossetti hopes that this exercise will start to get to the heart of why science cities rise and fall, and how their evolution is shaped by economic and political factors.


Click here

Researchers in the field know they are only starting to illuminate trends. They cannot even agree on whether research is concentrating in particular cities. Matthiessen says it is, but Grossetti says large, rising cities such as Beijing may have skewed the pattern.

How the field may ultimately benefit policy-makers and planners is far from certain. Much development happens by chance. In the Øresund cluster, the universities were swept up in general discussions about transnational integration, and were only later perceived as major catalysts for regional growth, says Bengt Streijffert, retired director of Øresund University. Economic, social and political factors will continue to confound the best-laid plans to optimize a city for science and innovation. And Hall suggests that global data will never displace sound case studies. "Data may be able to show you some interesting outliers — which are not the universities that develop in old cities and flourish there." But, he says, "the number-crunching won't tell you much about the why and the wherefore".


2011-01-30 05:22:27The Ville
John Hartz
John Hartz

You state, "For Boise City Nampa to be equal bad as Bismark it would need to drop down to 11 patents, instead of 370."

Both cities are in the heart of Republican territory.

The inferences that you and New Scientist magazine are drqwing from the two grpsh are speculative at bet. 

2011-01-30 05:51:38
Paul D


You sound like a sceptic Badger!
I chose two to indicate how the circles/colours in the map were calculated. One wouldn't expect the 'theory' to hold true for every Republican area or Democrat area, any more than one would expect that a every flood was caused by climate change!

I would suspect that the issue is that certain areas attract universities and high tech industries and the people that work there are more likely to be 'liberal'. Also larger populations would attract more universities and the the number of patents is not directly proportional to population. On top of a load of other factors.

2011-01-30 06:17:32The Ville
John Hartz
John Hartz

How does the article account for the fact that US Patents are issued to corporations and institutions as well as to indviduals?

In terms fo countering the Anti-AGW spin Machine, I just don't see how this particular "correlation" is significant.

2011-01-30 06:32:29The Ville
John Hartz
John Hartz
On a personal note, please cease and desist with beginning a response to me with "You sound like a sceptic Badger!"  I find it to be very offensive and demeaning.
2011-01-30 06:40:32universities
Dana Nuccitelli

What it really boils down to is that the cities with most patents contain universities.  #1 is Corvalis - Oregon State.  Boise, San Jose (San Jose State, but also the heart of Silicon Valley), Ames, Santa Barbara, etc.  Universities do research, and thus produce a lot of patents.

Of course, university towns (and scientists) tend to be very politically liberal as well.  Look at Austin, Texas for example.  So liberal compared to the rest of the state, many refer to it as "The People's Republic of Austin".

2011-01-30 06:50:13
Paul D


Aren't we all sceptics?

I was pointing out how easy it was to be sceptical and how difficult it can be to be open to new ideas.

Statistically there appears to be a correlation between patents and political voting. The reason for that could be interesting and may even throw light onto other issues.

2011-01-30 07:00:55
Paul D

Dana, I think it is probably largely down to communications and historical development that the most universities are centred around the East and West coasts. Trade and shipping would have been important as influences.

2011-01-30 09:11:59The Ville
John Hartz
John Hartz

A staistical correlation has nothing to do with causality.

Is there a casusality connection between a one's creativity (as measured by patents) and one's political beliefs? 

I sincerely doubt that there is.

Even if there is, how does knowing it help us achieve our objectives on the climate change front?

2011-01-31 05:15:24
Mark Richardson

There appears to be a link between scientists and more 'liberal' leanings. At least according to a Pew poll - not many scientists associate as republican, and I think that's probably because the republicans largely look like ideological nutters.


This is only in America though, and the US republicans have some ideas that many scientists simply can't accept. US republicanism seems to have a huge faith component and scientists obviously work with evidence rather than faith.

I suspect scientists have quite a broad spectrum of political ideas, including the gamut from communism to free markets. But the hypocrisy and ideological zealotry of the American right probably scares off scientists.

So 'liberals' are possibly responsible for most American tech.



Pure speculation, ofc!

2011-01-31 06:07:46@MarkR
John Hartz
John Hartz
Scientists are not the only group creating new technology (as measured by patents) in the US. Engineers are another. Whereas sicentists tend to be liberal, engineers tend to be conservative.
2011-01-31 07:09:55
Mark Richardson

Do you have any poll figures for that?


Looking at Gross & Simmons (2007), I found 28:49:23 dem:ind:rep for comp sci and engineering combined. Weirdly republicans dominate electrical engineering (32:14), but democrats dominate mechanical engineering (28:6).


Republicans are pretty well represented in finance, economics and accounting too, although they are outnumbered in economics.




This is pretty interesting!

2011-01-31 07:25:10Filing of patents is not the same thing as developing new technology


Patents do not necessarily represent new technology: Patents represents innovation = mostly incremental ideas that can be written down as early as possible to claim in the market some area of improved technique.

As an inventor/co-inventor in about 20 patents in telecommunications, I have some experience in this matter.

Also: I would concur in the opinion that engineers tend to be more conservative (and Republican) than scientists. I don't know definite numbers, but that is my experience in the telecom industry vs. dealing with academics when I visit friends who are now teaching. I don't think it is very surprising: Scientists are all about understanding and discovering new aspects, but engineers are about solving problems. One weak point in trying to solve a problem is that you may very often be given at the same time the tool that is expected to do the job. Sometimes engineers don't stop to think about whether the tool they have been given really suits the specific problem they are trying to solve: They just assume that it does, and force it to work. The selection of the tool becomes their "ideology" for the problem at hand. I think anyone who has been a teaching assistant for an intro physics class can recognize this character trait as very common among the population of engineering students.

That lock-in to a specific mindset is also part of why sometimes people can't accept that humans can have any impact on climate. This has been discussed in other threads, so I won't bother getting into it here.