New figures from the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) rank Canada number one in the world of international astronomy. This is the only area of scientific research where Canada leads the world.

The Institute for Scientific Information rates the quality and impact of scientific research worldwide by measuring the citation rate of research papers. To calculate the citation rate, ISI monitors recognized journals in all disciplines of science, and tabulates how often a specific research paper is cited in subsequent published research. The frequency with which a paper is cited is a strong indicator of both its quality and impact on a specific field of study.

According to the recently released figures (available at Canada now ranks first in the world in astronomy. Canadian researchers, the ISI statistics show, contributed to 4,836 research papers in space science (astronomy) over the past ten years. In all, these papers were cited in other published studies 76,921 times, giving Canada an overall citation rate of 15.91, the highest of any country. In contrast, American astronomers averaged 15.18 citations per paper, English astronomers 14.85, and Russians, 4.96 citations per paper.

“The fact that Canada ranks number one in citations is of no surprise to me,” says Dr. Matt Mountain, Director of the international Gemini Observatory. “Canadian astronomers are producing some of the best astronomy in the world, some of it right here at Gemini, and the instruments and software developed by Canadian teams are second to none.”

According to Dr. Greg Fahlman, Director-General of NRC’s Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics, Canada’s success is based on a strategy of focussed investments. “We invest in facilities and projects that build upon our existing strengths and then focus most of our research on the big scientific questions of our time, such as the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy.”

Because Canada builds state-of-the-art instruments for the best orbiting and ground-based telescopes in the world, says Fahlman, Canadian astronomers have access to the world’s foremost observatories where they can, in turn, work at the forefront of astronomical research.

We also, says Dr. René Racine, Professor Emeritus at the Université de Montréal, have an exceptional university community that includes and trains not only observational astronomers and instrumentalists, but some of the best theoretical and computational astrophysicists in the world. By working as a unified community, with significant interchange between theoretical and observational astronomers, Canada has created a powerhouse of discovery.

Highly cited Canadian projects include the Canada-France Redshift Survey and the Gemini Deep Deep Survey , projects that examine the structure and composition of galaxies at great distances from ours. Projects such as these are changing our understanding of the early universe. In theoretical astrophysics, researchers such as J.R. Bond and C.B. Netterfield at the University of Toronto and M. Halpern at the University of British Columbia are highly cited for work in the physics of the very early universe, the origin and evolution of cosmic structure, dark energy and dark matter.

While it’s wonderful for Canada to be ranked number one in astronomy in 2005, our long term goal, says Dr. James Hesser, President of the Canadian Astronomical Society, is to keep Canada at the forefront of astronomy. To do this, he emphasizes, we must maintain a strategy that clearly works – wise investment in key scientific questions – a strategy laid out in the Long Range Plan for Canadian Astronomy and Astrophysics in the 21st Century, a report published in 2000.

“In the Long Range Plan,” says Hesser, “we set clear, ambitious targets focussed squarely on key questions concerning the origins of structure in the universe.”

The report, he says, lays out Canada’s vision for astronomy for this decade and beyond, allowing us to focus our energy and resources on areas where we can have the most impact. Several of the recommendations made in that report, including Canadian participation in the Atacama Large Millimetre Array and the James Webb Space Telescope, are receiving funding. Fulfillment of this commitment, says Hesser, will ensure that Canada will continue to play a lead role in international astronomy in the decades to come.

For more information on the ISI statistics, a listing of Canada’s astronomy citation superstars and Canadian astronomy highlights, including Canada’s Long Range Plan please visit

For more information please contact:

Dr. Dennis Crabtree
Phone: 250-216-9970

Dr. René Racine
Phone: 450-464-8809

Dr. Jim Hesser
Phone: 514-715-2147

Dr. Greg Fahlman
Phone: 514-715-2147

Dr. Robert Lamontagne
Phone: 514-715-2147