Tyler Cowen points to a paper by Bruce G. Charlton which uses Nobel Prizes as an indicator of trends in research quality. Cowen picks out the fact that the Western U.S. has been gaining at the expense of Europe and Harvard. Charlton writes,

In contrast to the picture of long term decline in Nobel-prize-winning revolutionary science; UK and European scientific production (also that of Chinese science) is probably catching up with the USA in terms of scientometric measures such as numbers of publications and citations [12,13]. This difference between national performance in normal and revolutionary science seems to suggest that the research systems of revolutionary science and normal science are evolving towards separation [3]. Clearly, growth of the two types of science does not always go-together.

This anomaly deserves further exploration. I have trouble figuring out how A’s scientists can be as heavily cited as B’s, but with fewer Nobel Prizes. My guess is that there is more to the story.

Charlton, the author, has been a valued commenter on this blog–see here and here, for example.