Estonia is one of the world’s tiniest developed nations. With just 1.3 million citizens, it has a smaller population than cities such as Warsaw and Vienna. Its research community comprises just over 3,000 full-time researchers in academia, and a modest number of small and medium-sized tech companies. “Almost everyone knows each other here,” says Karin Jaanson, executive director of the Estonian Research Council, the country’s government-financed grant-giving agency.
But its research base was even smaller when independence arrived. At that time, government spending on science had dropped to almost nothing — as it had in Russia and other former Eastern-bloc countries in the region. Five years after independence, Estonia-based authors were publishing just 500 or so scientific papers per year in English-language journals covered by the citation database Scopus. Since then, the nation’s scholarly output has increased more than fourfold (see ‘Citations boom’). Economic growth picked up rapidly in the 2000s, and public spending on science — aided by EU funds — increased steadily, from €80 million in 2007 to more than €150 million in 2013.