Experts from the Higher School of Economics have reviewed the BRICS countries' research landscape using data from 2000-2015 from the Scopus citation database. They found that academic activity in the BRICS is growing at a fast pace and catching up with that of the EU countries and the US.
In 2010, the total number of publications from BRICS exceeded the number of publications from the US, and, in 2014, it was almost equal to the number from the 28 EU countries. In 2015, BRICS researchers produced nearly 29% of the global publications cited in Scopus (versus 10.7% in 2010), of which 18% came from China, 5% from India, 2.6% from Russia and Brazil, and 0.72% from South Africa.
This increase has mainly been driven by the exceptionally high number of publications from China cited in Scopus. There was an 8.5-fold increase between 2000 and 2015, lifting China's share of publications indexed in Scopus from 4.3% in 2000 to 18.0% in 2015. A rise in the number of cited papers from Russia began in 2013, leading to a 50.8% increase in the number of indexed Russian publications between 2012 and 2015.
Source: Derived from Shashnov and Kotsemir (2018)
A review of the BRICS countries' positions in the 27 subject areas covered by Scopus shows that China tops the list in many areas, such as Chemistry, Computer Science, Energy, Engineering, Mathematics, and Chemical Engineering, while other BRICS countries rank highly in some areas, but not in others.
Russia holds leading positions in the following five areas: Physics and Astronomy; Economics, Econometrics and Finance; Earth and Planetary Sciences; Mathematics, and Materials Science.
In addition, HSE researchers observed a tendency for BRICS researchers to collaborate more with colleagues from countries outside of the BRICS. Their key partners include established leaders in scientific production, such as the US, the UK and Germany. This being said, collaboration within the BRICS has been on the rise in recent years. A notable exception is China, where the proportion of publications produced in partnership with other BRICS countries was less than 4% of the total number of its international collaborative publications between 2000 and 2015. In contrast, Russia's share of collaborative publications with other BRICS countries rose from 3.9% in 2000 to 11.0% in 2015.
Academic cooperation between BRICS countries has been limited in comparison to the active interaction between BRICS and non-BRICS countries in certain areas, such as Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (especially in the case of South Africa), Chemical Engineering (especially in the case of China), and Decision Sciences (especially in the case of Brazil). According to the study authors, HSE ISSEK researchers Maxim Kotsemir and Sergey Shashnov, these may become areas of cooperation between BRICS countries in the future.