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'The US Era is Approaching Its End'

In an empirical study published today in the journal Royal Society Open ScienceGoethe University Frankfurt researcher Claudius Gros posits that the US's dominance in winning science Nobel prizes may be coming to a rapid end.

"We point out that the Nobel prize production of the USA, the UK, Germany, and France has been in numbers that are large enough to allow for a reliable analysis of the long-term historical developments," Gros writes in his study. "The historical trends for the fractional number of Nobelists per population are surprisingly robust, indicating in particular that the maximum Nobel productivity peaked in the 1970s for the USA and around 1900 for both France and Germany.... For the USA, one finds that the entire history of science Nobel prizes is described on a per capita basis to an astonishing accuracy by a single large productivity boost decaying at a continuously accelerating rate since its peak in 1972."

Gros points out that productivity for Nobel Prizes in physics, chemistry, and medicine is primarily determined by a long-term success rate and periods during which each country has been able to win an especially large number of Nobel Prizes, says Science Daily. The UK has had a nearly constant, very high success rate per capita, but it remains uncertain whether the UK can maintain this success, Science Daily adds.

Overall, Gros believes that "The US era is approaching its end." He calculates that the US's productivity in winning science Nobel Prizes will be below that of Germany in 2025, and below that of France in 2028. 

However, he adds, this may not be a cause for concern. "National research advancement can undoubtedly also be successful independent of Nobel Prize productivity," Gros writes. "Especially because new areas of research such as the computer sciences, a typical US domain, are not included."

The decline in Nobel Prize productivity may merely be the result of a new orientation toward "more promising" research fields, Science Daily notes.