Previous bibliometric analyses of research activity in Sustainable Development have procured scientific articles by searching for the term “sustainability” or “sustainable” in the titles, abstracts and keywords (Yarime et al., 2010; Kajikawa et al., 2007). But such an approach cannot adequately retrieve articles in the field and cannot be used to conduct analyses of research activities in the sub-areas. Our present work seeks to build a rich hierarchy representing the field of Sustainable Development and its sub-areas. Since Sustainable Development is highly inter-disciplinary in nature and yet evolving, it has been a matter of debate as to what should be included in a definition of the field. There have been efforts to provide a research core and framework of Sustainable Development by identifying sub-areas of Sustainable Development through bibliometric analysis (Kajikawa, 2008). In particular, using topological clustering, Kajikawa et al. (2007) identified the following sub-areas of sustainability science: Agriculture, Fisheries, Ecological Economics, Forestry, Business, Tourism, Water, Urban Planning, Rural Sociology, Energy, Health, Soil, Wildlife and Climate Change. In this paper we use this taxonomy as our definition of Sustainable Development and its sub-areas.Given the recognized critical need for countries to develop more sustainable development paths and the rapid increase in resources now being invested in this area, it becomes important to clearly understand the current state of research activity in this area. For this quantitative bibliometric analyses are well suited, but conducting such analyses in highly interdisciplinary and emerging areas like this is highly challenging.In this paper we a present bibliometric study of research activity in Sustainable Development. Sustainable Development concerns nature (e.g., climate, ocean, rivers, plants, and other components of the natural environment), artifacts (e.g., machinery, biotechnology, materials, chemicals, and energy), and society (e.g., economy, industry, finance, demography, culture, ethics, and history) (Le´le´, 1991; Goodland, 1995). In recent years, Sustainable Development and its various sub-areas such as Renewable Energy and Climate Change have been declared as national priority areas by numerous countries and international organizations.
Two relevant recent developments in the area of science and technology (S&T) and related policy-making motivate this article: First, bibliometric data on a specific research area’s performance becomes an increasingly relevant source for S&T policy-making and evaluation. This trend is embedded in wider discussions on evidence-based policy-making. Secondly, the scientific output of Southeast Asian countries is rising, as is the number of international research collaborations with the second area of our interest: Europe. Against this background, we employ basic bibliometric methodology in order to draw a picture of Southeast Asian research strengths as well the amount and focus of S&T cooperation between the countries in Southeast Asia and the European Union. The results can prove useful for an interested public as well as for the scientific community and science, technology and innovation policy-making.
In the last two decades, hand-in-hand with strong economic growth, Southeast Asia has experienced a strengthened academic community as well as an increase in public and private research and development. But, because the level of research activity and maturity of the research environment in Southeast Asian countries is varied and has been changing rapidly in recent years, public perceptions of the amount and relevance of the research output can often be inaccurate. This gives particular emphasis to the need for data to support decisions concerning collaborative research programmes.