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Institute for Scientific Information Global Research Reports and Insights papers

Cover of Annual G 20 Scorecard Research Performance August 2023

  • The annual G20 scorecard – Research performance 2023
  • Unpacking research profiles: Moving beyond metrics - June 2023
  • Insights: Coronaviruses - A 21st-century research phenomenon - May 2023
  • U.S. research trends: The impact of globalization and collaboration - April 2023
  • The Annual G20 Scorecard - Research Performance 2022
  • A study of energy in transition - October 2022
  • Research assessment: Origins, evolution, outcomes - October 2022
  • Ocean Science: sustainability concerns add urgency for research - July 2022
  • Climate change research collaboration - May 2022
  • Ethnic diversity in STEM in the United States - April 2022
  • Central Europe: A profile of the region and its place in the European research network - March 2022
  • Making it count: Research credit management in a collaborative world - January 2022
  • More ISI Reports

What is ISI?

The Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) builds on the work of Dr. Eugene Garfield – the original founder and pioneer of information science. Named after the company he founded – the forerunner of the Web of Science – ISI was reestablished in 2018 and serves as a home for analytic expertise, guided by his legacy and adapted to respond to technological advances. For more information, read The History of ISI .

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Gates Foundation Collaborates with F1000 to Launch Verified Preprint Platform

Researchgate and wiley’s journal home partnership expands to 700 journals, the bill & melinda gates foundation’s open access policy refresh, understanding the current state of play in open education in europe, jisc and taylor & francis agree new open research deal for…, knowledge unlatched announces results of 2023 pledging, the company of biologists appoints prenax as exclusive representative in spain, new springer nature group sustainability report shows carbon-reduction efforts on track,…, digital science announces new campaign to celebrate and understand ‘research transformation’, plos and eurodoc partner to advance open science principles, clarivate acquires ai start up to accelerate strategy and business development…, 67 bricks named as finalists for consultancy of the year in…, wiley announces pilot of new ai-powered papermill detection service, stm welcomes landmark eu ai act vote | joint statement, the company of biologists appoint suweco as exclusive representative in the…, sanlic and taylor & francis announce new open access program for…, research integrity experts call for new forensics discipline, the state university of new york press (suny) joins the university…, new research shows uk publishing sector is worth £11 billion to…, iop publishing celebrates outstanding peer reviewers , university of technology sydney chooses figshare to drive the discoverability of…, clarivate partners with everylibrary to support and nurture libraries in the…, oclc’s new library analytics solution to better align collections with priorities,…, sparc report – new insights into oe in european libraries of…, registration is open for ssp’s 46th annual meeting, lbf – research and scholarly publishing forum, sdg publishers compact fellows – survey, announcing ssp’s 2023 journals academy: virtual training for scholarly journals publishing, ssp announces 2023 new directions in scholarly publishing seminar, institute for scientific information launches global research report – profiles not metrics.

global research report isi

The Institute for Scientific Information, the ‘university’ of Web of Science Group  today  launched its Global Research Reports – a new series of publications aimed at those who deal with research in academia, corporations, publishers and governments to inform, to stimulate debate and to demonstrate the rich information potential of research data.

The first Global Research Report, ‘ Profiles not Metrics ’ draws attention to the information that is lost when data about researchers and their institutions are squeezed into simplified metrics or a league table.  Research is not one-dimensional: the process is complex and no two projects are identical. Yet, to the dismay of many, the global research community is surrounded by analyses that claim to measure relative performance among people, publications and organizations, disregarding the counter arguments offered by informed analysts.

It examines four familiar types of analysis that can obscure real research performance when misused and offers four alternative visualizations that unpack the richer information that lies beneath each headline indicator:

  • Researchers: A beam-plot not an h-index . The h-index is a widely quoted but poorly understood way of characterizing a researcher’s publication and citation profile whilst the beam plot can be used for a fair and meaningful evaluation.
  • Journals: The whole Journal Citation Record (JCR), not just the Journal Impact Factor (JIF). The JIF has been irresponsibly applied to wider management research whilst the new JCR offers revised journal profiles with a richer data context.
  • Institutes: An Impact Profile not an isolated Average Citation Impact .  Category normalised citation impacts have no statistical power and can be deceptive whilst Impact Profiles show the real spread of citations.
  • Universities: A Research Footprint, not a university ranking.  A global university ranking may be fun but suppresses more information than most analyses and hides the diversity and complexity of activity of any one campus, whilst a Research Footprint provides a more informative approach as it can unpack performance by discipline or data type.

Jonathan Adams, Director at the Institute for Scientific Information explains:

“In re-establishing ISI we committed to supporting the needs of the global community of researchers, research managers, policymakers and publishers with high quality and timely information to inform and support best practice analysis and interpretation of research trends and performance.   In this, our first ISI report of the C21st we examine the efficiency and effectiveness of current metric indicators as we seek to support sound, responsible research management.

“For every over-simplified or mis-used metric there is a better alternative, usually involving proper and responsible data analysis through a graphical display with multiple, complimentary dimensions. By placing data in a wider context, we see new features and understand more and improve our ability to interpret research activity.”

You can download the report here:  https://clarivate.com/g/profiles-not-metrics/

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New Springer Nature Group sustainability report shows carbon-reduction efforts on track,...

Articles Web of Science Core Collection: Quick Reference Guide

Web of science core collection: quick reference guide, jun 27, 2018 • knowledge, information.

Bob Wilson

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Highlighted Research

Following the continuation of a busy period of alternative managers increasing exposure to the life insurance space, this report focuses on what we think it means for the competitive environment for life insurers and valuation implications for both sectors.

We think the convergence trend of alt managers moving into life insurance is alive and well. In terms of implications for traditional life insurers, we view it as a near-term positive, though likely developing into a medium-term negative.

For alt managers, we think the vanilla liability focus combined with some asset origination advantages will likely allow them to generate better growth and returns over time than most traditional life insurers. After a deeper dive into the competitive landscape, however, this excess growth may be limited.

Click here to view the full report.

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Clarivate Releases Global Report on Research Integrity

Niso member news, london, u.k., october 21, 2020.

Clarivate Plc (NYSE:CCC), a global leader in providing trusted information and insights to accelerate the pace of innovation, today released a report, “ Research Integrity: Understanding our shared responsibility for a sustainable scholarly ecosystem ”. Recent analysis from the Institute for Scientific Information™ at Clarivate has found that research malpractice is becoming more prevalent and sophisticated, threatening the value and long-term sustainability of scientific literature. It highlights the urgent need for all research stakeholders to agree a code of ethics and action, working collaboratively and decisively to protect research integrity amidst a rapidly evolving ecosystem. 

The report exposes the range of tactics used to subvert research integrity, as well as the most susceptible points in the research cycle. It also outlines the shared responsibilities of those involved in the process – including funders, institutions and publishers – emphasizing the crucial role of collaboration and calling for community guidelines around ethics and actions, especially in terms of research assessment and incentivisation. Finally, the report analyzes how the research community can use technology, data, and analytics to uphold the principles of research integrity, highlighting six major areas for improvement. 

Drawing on Web of Science™ data, the findings show how deviant publication practices have risen drastically in recent years, with more researchers misrepresenting their work to garner kudos in their field, or simply doing what they feel they must to survive in a ‘publish or perish’ world. However, considering current trends in the scholarly ecosystem, such as increasing transparency through open research and digital transformation and acceleration, the authors highlight an opportunity for clarity and action.  

The report acts as a guide for anyone with a stake in the research process. Many stand to benefit from upholding research integrity, with a wide variety of motivating factors: 

·          Researchers  want to improve their standing through the publication of many research articles in high-quality journals that receive a high number of citations. This improves their chances of receiving funding, enables them to take on better positions (institutional, editorial, advisory) and generally ensures longevity of their career. 

·          Journals  want to attract and publish the very best research articles in their field or increase their publication volumes to ensure their profitability, long-term sustainability and growth in readership. 

·          Publishers  want to build a portfolio of successful journals, possibly specialized by field, access model, threshold for acceptance or otherwise. 

·          Institutions  want to attract, develop, promote, and retain academics that produce world-leading research with wide socio-economic benefits. In turn, a better research profile improves their standing in rankings which bolsters student applications, increases alumni support, and enables recruitment of first-rate faculty. 

·          Funders  want to invest money in the teams and projects that will deliver high-impact outcomes. 

·          Governments  want to build and invest in productive research systems with high quality governance that deliver political, economic, and cultural advantage. 

·          Database and Analytics providers  seek to provide useful search and discovery features that help researchers work quickly and more efficiently, and to provide analytical tools (including metrics and indicators) that support research evaluation use-cases.   

Dr Nandita Quaderi, Editor-in-Chief of Web of Science at Clarivate  and report co-author said: “We need to broaden our view of what ‘research integrity’ means. The traditional focus on fabrication, falsification and plagiarism is no longer enough - we’re seeing new forms of manipulation emerge as some stakeholders try to game the system to gain an unfair advantage. Our report makes it clear that collective and proactive efforts are needed to address the many opportunities for misconduct. The tools are here, but it is up to all the key players in the research ecosystem to align and take action together.” 

Joel Haspel, SVP Strategy, Science at Clarivate  said: “Research integrity should be a top priority for anyone involved in the creation, delivery and assessment of academic literature. The risks are clear: if someone pollutes the record of research, it can sabotage future research efforts, undermine aspects of open science, and frustrate those whose work relies on a sound research system. We all have a responsibility to monitor and protect the integrity of our research system, and this report clearly outlines who, what, and how.” 

About These Organizations

About Clarivate   

Clarivate™ is a global leader in providing solutions to accelerate the lifecycle of innovation. Our bold mission is to help customers solve some of the world’s most complex problems by providing actionable information and insights that reduce the time from new ideas to life-changing inventions in the areas of science and intellectual property. We help customers discover, protect and commercialize their inventions using our trusted subscription and technology-based solutions coupled with deep domain expertise. For more information, please visit  clarivate.com . 

About the Institute for Scientific Information   

The Institute for Scientific Information (ISI)™ at Clarivate has pioneered the organization of the world’s research information for more than half a century. Today it remains committed to promoting integrity in research whilst improving the retrieval, interpretation and utility of scientific information and maintains the knowledge corpus upon which the Web of Science™ index and related information and analytical content and services are built. It disseminates that knowledge externally through events, conferences and publications whilst conducting primary research to sustain, extend and improve the knowledge base. For more information, please visit  https://clarivate.com/webofsciencegroup/solutions/isi-institute-for-scientific-information/   

AI Index Report

Welcome to the seventh edition of the AI Index report. The 2024 Index is our most comprehensive to date and arrives at an important moment when AI’s influence on society has never been more pronounced. This year, we have broadened our scope to more extensively cover essential trends such as technical advancements in AI, public perceptions of the technology, and the geopolitical dynamics surrounding its development. Featuring more original data than ever before, this edition introduces new estimates on AI training costs, detailed analyses of the responsible AI landscape, and an entirely new chapter dedicated to AI’s impact on science and medicine.

Read the 2024 AI Index Report

The AI Index report tracks, collates, distills, and visualizes data related to artificial intelligence (AI). Our mission is to provide unbiased, rigorously vetted, broadly sourced data in order for policymakers, researchers, executives, journalists, and the general public to develop a more thorough and nuanced understanding of the complex field of AI.

The AI Index is recognized globally as one of the most credible and authoritative sources for data and insights on artificial intelligence. Previous editions have been cited in major newspapers, including the The New York Times, Bloomberg, and The Guardian, have amassed hundreds of academic citations, and been referenced by high-level policymakers in the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union, among other places. This year’s edition surpasses all previous ones in size, scale, and scope, reflecting the growing significance that AI is coming to hold in all of our lives.

Steering Committee Co-Directors

Jack Clark

Ray Perrault

Steering committee members.

Erik Brynjolfsson

Erik Brynjolfsson

John Etchemendy

John Etchemendy

Katrina light

Katrina Ligett

Terah Lyons

Terah Lyons

James Manyika

James Manyika

Juan Carlos Niebles

Juan Carlos Niebles

Vanessa Parli

Vanessa Parli

Yoav Shoham

Yoav Shoham

Russell Wald

Russell Wald

Staff members.

Loredana Fattorini

Loredana Fattorini

Nestor Maslej

Nestor Maslej

Letter from the co-directors.

A decade ago, the best AI systems in the world were unable to classify objects in images at a human level. AI struggled with language comprehension and could not solve math problems. Today, AI systems routinely exceed human performance on standard benchmarks.

Progress accelerated in 2023. New state-of-the-art systems like GPT-4, Gemini, and Claude 3 are impressively multimodal: They can generate fluent text in dozens of languages, process audio, and even explain memes. As AI has improved, it has increasingly forced its way into our lives. Companies are racing to build AI-based products, and AI is increasingly being used by the general public. But current AI technology still has significant problems. It cannot reliably deal with facts, perform complex reasoning, or explain its conclusions.

AI faces two interrelated futures. First, technology continues to improve and is increasingly used, having major consequences for productivity and employment. It can be put to both good and bad uses. In the second future, the adoption of AI is constrained by the limitations of the technology. Regardless of which future unfolds, governments are increasingly concerned. They are stepping in to encourage the upside, such as funding university R&D and incentivizing private investment. Governments are also aiming to manage the potential downsides, such as impacts on employment, privacy concerns, misinformation, and intellectual property rights.

As AI rapidly evolves, the AI Index aims to help the AI community, policymakers, business leaders, journalists, and the general public navigate this complex landscape. It provides ongoing, objective snapshots tracking several key areas: technical progress in AI capabilities, the community and investments driving AI development and deployment, public opinion on current and potential future impacts, and policy measures taken to stimulate AI innovation while managing its risks and challenges. By comprehensively monitoring the AI ecosystem, the Index serves as an important resource for understanding this transformative technological force.

On the technical front, this year’s AI Index reports that the number of new large language models released worldwide in 2023 doubled over the previous year. Two-thirds were open-source, but the highest-performing models came from industry players with closed systems. Gemini Ultra became the first LLM to reach human-level performance on the Massive Multitask Language Understanding (MMLU) benchmark; performance on the benchmark has improved by 15 percentage points since last year. Additionally, GPT-4 achieved an impressive 0.97 mean win rate score on the comprehensive Holistic Evaluation of Language Models (HELM) benchmark, which includes MMLU among other evaluations.

Although global private investment in AI decreased for the second consecutive year, investment in generative AI skyrocketed. More Fortune 500 earnings calls mentioned AI than ever before, and new studies show that AI tangibly boosts worker productivity. On the policymaking front, global mentions of AI in legislative proceedings have never been higher. U.S. regulators passed more AI-related regulations in 2023 than ever before. Still, many expressed concerns about AI’s ability to generate deepfakes and impact elections. The public became more aware of AI, and studies suggest that they responded with nervousness.

Ray Perrault Co-director, AI Index

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Global Greenhouse Gas Overview

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Global Emissions and Removals by Gas

Global emissions by economic sector, trends in global emissions, emissions by country.

At the global scale, the key greenhouse gases emitted by human activities are:

  • Carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) : Fossil fuel use is the primary source of CO 2 . CO 2 can also be emitted from the landscape through deforestation, land clearance for agriculture or development, and degradation of soils. Likewise, land management can also remove additional CO 2 from the atmosphere through reforestation, improvement of soil health, and other activities.
  • Methane (CH 4 ) : Agricultural activities, waste management, energy production and use, and biomass burning all contribute to CH 4 emissions.
  • Nitrous oxide (N 2 O) : Agricultural activities, such as fertilizer use, are the primary source of N 2 O emissions. Chemical production and fossil fuel combustion also generates N 2 O.
  • Fluorinated gases (F-gases) : Industrial processes, refrigeration, and the use of a variety of consumer products contribute to emissions of F-gases, which include hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF 6 ).

Additional compounds in the atmosphere including solid and liquid aerosol and other greenhouse gases, such as water vapor and ground-level ozone can also impact the climate. Learn more about these compounds and climate change on our Basics of Climate Change page .

Source: Data from IPCC (2022); Based on global emissions from 2019, details on the sectors and individual contributing sources can be found in the Contribution of Working Group III to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Mitigation of Climate Change, Chapter 2.

Global greenhouse gas emissions can also be broken down by the economic activities that lead to their atmospheric release. [1]

GHG Global Emissions by Economic Sector

  • Electricity and Heat Production (34% of 2019 global greenhouse gas emissions): The burning of coal, natural gas, and oil for electricity and heat is the largest single source of global greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Industry (24% of 2019 global greenhouse gas emissions): Greenhouse gas emissions from industry primarily involve fossil fuels burned on site at facilities for energy. This sector also includes emissions from chemical, metallurgical, and mineral transformation processes not associated with energy consumption and emissions from waste management activities. (Note: Emissions from industrial electricity use are excluded and are instead covered in the Electricity and Heat Production sector.)
  • Agriculture, Forestry, and Other Land Use (22% of 2019 global greenhouse gas emissions): Greenhouse gas emissions from this sector come mostly from agriculture (cultivation of crops and livestock) and deforestation. This estimate does not include the CO 2 that ecosystems remove from the atmosphere by sequestering carbon (e.g. in biomass, soils). [2]
  • Transportation (15% of 2019 global greenhouse gas emissions): Greenhouse gas emissions from this sector primarily involve fossil fuels burned for road, rail, air, and marine transportation. Almost all (95%) of the world's transportation energy comes from petroleum-based fuels, largely gasoline and diesel. [3]
  • Buildings (6% of 2019 global greenhouse gas emissions): Greenhouse gas emissions from this sector arise from onsite energy generation and burning fuels for heat in buildings or cooking in homes. Note: Emissions from this sector are 16% when electricity use in buildings is included in this sector instead of the Energy sector.

Note on emissions sector categories.

GHE Emissions Forestry and Fossil Fuels

Emissions of non-CO 2 greenhouse gases (CH 4 , N 2 O, and F-gases) have also increased significantly since 1850.

  • Globally, greenhouse gas emissions continued to rise across all sectors and subsectors, most rapidly in the transport and industry sectors.
  • While the trend in emissions continues to rise, annual greenhouse gas growth by sector slowed in 2010 to 2019, compared to 2000 to 2009, for energy and industry, however remained roughly stable for transport.
  • The trend for for AFOLU remains more uncertain, due to the multitude of drivers that affect emissions and removals for land use, land-use change and forestry.
  • rising demand for construction materials and manufactured products,
  • increasing floor space per capita,
  • increasing building energy use,
  • travel distances, and vehicle size and weight.

To learn more about past and projected global emissions of non-CO 2 gases, please see the EPA report, Global Non-CO 2 Greenhouse Gas Emission Projections & Mitigation Potential: 2015-2050 . For further insights into mitigation strategies specifically within the U.S. forestry and agriculture sectors, refer to the latest Climate Economic Analysis report on Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Potential in U.S. Forestry and Agriculture .

GHG Emissions by Country in 2020

In 2020, the top ten greenhouse gas emitters were China, the United States, India, the European Union, Russia, Indonesia, Brazil, Japan, Iran, and Canada. These data include CO 2 , CH 4 , N 2 O, and fluorinated gas emissions from energy, agriculture, forestry and land use change, industry, and waste. Together, these top ten countries represent approximately 67% of total greenhouse gas emissions in 2020.

Emissions and sinks related to changes in land use are not included in these estimates. However, changes in land use can be important: estimates indicate that net global greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, forestry, and other land use were approximately 12 billion metric tons of CO 2 equivalent, [2] or about 21% of total global greenhouse gas emissions. [3] In areas such as the United States and Europe, changes in land use associated with human activities have the net effect of absorbing CO 2 , partially offsetting the emissions from deforestation in other regions.

EPA resources

  • Greenhouse Gas Emissions
  • Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions (in the United States)
  • Non-CO 2 Greenhouse Gases: Emissions and Trends
  • Capacity Building for National GHG Inventories

Other resources

  • UNFCCC GHG Data Interface
  • European Commission Emission Database for Global Atmospheric Research
  • World Development Indicators
  • Climate Watch
  • Carbon Dioxide and Information Analysis Center (CDIAC)
  • Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Energy Data Explorer (IEA)

1. IPCC (2022), Emissions Trends and Drivers. In IPCC, 2022: Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK and New York, NY, USA. doi: 10.1017/9781009157926.004

2. Jia, G., E. Shevliakova, P. Artaxo, N. De Noblet-Ducoudré, R. Houghton, J. House, K. Kitajima, C. Lennard, A. Popp, A. Sirin, R. Sukumar, L. Verchot, 2019: Land–climate interactions . In: Climate Change and Land: an IPCC special report on climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems [P.R. Shukla, J. Skea, E. Calvo Buendia, V. Masson-Delmotte, H.-O. Pörtner, D.C. Roberts, P. Zhai, R. Slade, S. Connors, R. van Diemen, M. Ferrat, E. Haughey, S. Luz, S. Neogi, M. Pathak, J. Petzold, J. Portugal Pereira, P. Vyas, E. Huntley, K. Kissick, M, Belkacemi, J. Malley, (eds.)]. https://doi.org/10.1017/9781009157988.004

3. U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Energy Outlook 2021 , (February 2021), www.eia.gov/aeo

Note on emissions sector categories:

The global emission estimates described on this page are from the Intergovernmental Panel (IPCC) on Climate Change's Fifth Assessment Report. In this report, some of the sector categories are defined differently from how they are defined in the Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions page on this website. Transportation, Industry, Agriculture, and Land Use and Forestry are four global emission sectors that roughly correspond to the U.S. sectors. Energy Supply, Commercial and Residential Buildings, and Waste and Wastewater are categorized slightly differently. For example, the IPCC's Energy Supply sector for global emissions encompasses the burning of fossil fuel for heat and energy across all sectors. In contrast, the U.S. Sources discussion tracks emissions from the electric power separately and attributes on-site emissions for heat and power to their respective sectors (i.e., emissions from gas or oil burned in furnaces for heating buildings are assigned to the residential and commercial sector). The IPCC has defined Waste and Wastewater as a separate sector, while in the Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions page, waste and wastewater emissions are attributed to the Commercial and Residential sector.

  • GHG Emissions and Removals Home
  • Overview of Greenhouse Gases
  • Sources of GHG Emissions and Removals
  • Global Emissions and Removals
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  • State and Tribal GHG Data and Resources
  • Facility-Level Emissions
  • Gridded Methane Emissions
  • Carbon Footprint Calculator
  • GHG Equivalencies Calculator
  • Capacity Building for GHG Inventories

No sign of greenhouse gases increases slowing in 2023

  • April 5, 2024

Levels of the three most important human-caused greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide (CO 2 ), methane and nitrous oxide – continued their steady climb during 2023, according to NOAA scientists. 

While the rise in the three heat-trapping gases recorded in the air samples collected by NOAA’s Global Monitoring Laboratory (GML) in 2023 was not quite as high as the record jumps observed in recent years, they were in line with the steep increases observed during the past decade. 

“NOAA’s long-term air sampling program is essential for tracking causes of climate change and for supporting the U.S. efforts to establish an integrated national greenhouse gas measuring, monitoring and information system,” said GML Director Vanda Grubišić. “As these numbers show, we still have a lot of work to do to make meaningful progress in reducing the amount of greenhouse gases accumulating in the atmosphere.” 

The global surface concentration of CO 2 , averaged across all 12 months of 2023, was 419.3 parts per million (ppm), an increase of 2.8 ppm during the year. This was the 12th consecutive year CO 2 increased by more than 2 ppm, extending the highest sustained rate of CO 2 increases during the 65-year monitoring record. Three consecutive years of CO 2  growth of 2 ppm or more had not been seen in NOAA’s monitoring records prior to 2014. Atmospheric CO 2 is now more than 50% higher than pre-industrial levels.

global research report isi

This graph shows the globally averaged monthly mean carbon dioxide abundance measured at the Global Monitoring Laboratory’s global network of air sampling sites since 1980. Data are still preliminary, pending recalibrations of reference gases and other quality control checks. Credit: NOAA GML

“The 2023 increase is the third-largest in the past decade, likely a result of an ongoing increase of fossil fuel CO 2 emissions, coupled with increased fire emissions possibly as a result of the transition from La Nina to El Nino,” said Xin Lan, a CIRES scientist who leads GML’s effort to synthesize data from the NOAA Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network for tracking global greenhouse gas trends .

Atmospheric methane, less abundant than CO 2 but more potent at trapping heat in the atmosphere, rose to an average of 1922.6 parts per billion (ppb). The 2023 methane increase over 2022 was 10.9 ppb, lower than the record growth rates seen in 2020 (15.2 ppb), 2021(18 ppb)  and 2022 (13.2 ppb), but still the 5th highest since renewed methane growth started in 2007. Methane levels in the atmosphere are now more than 160% higher than their pre-industrial level.

global research report isi

This graph shows globally-averaged, monthly mean atmospheric methane abundance determined from marine surface sites for the full NOAA time-series starting in 1983. Values for the last year are preliminary, pending recalibrations of standard gases and other quality control steps. Credit: NOAA GM

In 2023, levels of nitrous oxide, the third-most significant human-caused greenhouse gas, climbed by 1 ppb to 336.7 ppb. The two years of highest growth since 2000 occurred in 2020 (1.3 ppb) and 2021 (1.3 ppb). Increases in atmospheric nitrous oxide during recent decades are mainly from use of nitrogen fertilizer and manure from the expansion and intensification of agriculture. Nitrous oxide concentrations are 25% higher than the pre-industrial level of 270 ppb.

Taking the pulse of the planet one sample at a time NOAA’s Global Monitoring Laboratory collected more than 15,000 air samples from monitoring stations around the world in 2023 and analyzed them in its state-of-the-art laboratory in Boulder,

Colorado. Each spring, NOAA scientists release preliminary calculations of the global average levels of these three primary long-lived greenhouse gases observed during the previous year to track their abundance, determine emissions and sinks, and understand carbon cycle feedbacks.

Measurements are obtained from air samples collected from sites in NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network , which includes about 53 cooperative sampling sites around the world, 20 tall tower sites, and routine aircraft operation sites from North America. 

Carbon dioxide emissions remain the biggest problem 

By far the most important contributor to climate change is CO 2 , which is primarily emitted by burning of fossil fuels. Human-caused CO 2 pollution increased from 10.9 billion tons per year in the 1960s – which is when the measurements at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii began – to about 36.8 billion tons per year in 2023. This sets a new record, according to the Global Carbon Project , which uses NOAA’s Global Greenhouse Gas Reference Network measurements to define the net impact of global carbon emissions and sinks.

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The amount of CO 2 in the atmosphere today is comparable to where it was around 4.3 million years ago during the mid- Pliocene epoch , when sea level was about 75 feet higher than today, the average temperature was 7 degrees Fahrenheit higher than in pre-industrial times, and large forests occupied areas of the Arctic that are now tundra. 

About half of the CO 2 emissions from fossil fuels to date have been absorbed at the Earth’s surface, divided roughly equally between oceans and land ecosystems, including grasslands and forests. The CO 2 absorbed by the world’s oceans contributes to ocean acidification, which is causing a fundamental change in the chemistry of the ocean, with impacts to marine life and the people who depend on them. The oceans have also absorbed an estimated 90% of the excess heat trapped in the atmosphere by greenhouse gases. 

Research continues to point to microbial sources for rising methane

NOAA’s measurements show that atmospheric methane increased rapidly during the 1980s, nearly stabilized in the late-1990s and early 2000s, then resumed a rapid rise in 2007. 

A 2022 study by NOAA and NASA scientists and additional NOAA research in 2023 suggests that more than 85% of the increase from 2006 to 2021 was due to increased microbial emissions generated by livestock, agriculture, human and agricultural waste, wetlands and other aquatic sources. The rest of the increase was attributed to increased fossil fuel emissions. 

“In addition to the record high methane growth in 2020-2022, we also observed sharp changes in the isotope composition of the methane that indicates an even more dominant role of microbial emission increase,” said Lan. The exact causes of the recent increase in methane are not yet fully known. 

NOAA scientists are investigating the possibility that climate change is causing wetlands to give off increasing methane emissions in a feedback loop. 

To learn more about the Global Monitoring Laboratory’s greenhouse gas monitoring, visit: https://gml.noaa.gov/ccgg/trends/.

Media Contact: Theo Stein, [email protected] , 303-819-7409

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Open Access

Peer-reviewed

Research Article

Mapping the global geography of cybercrime with the World Cybercrime Index

Roles Data curation, Formal analysis, Investigation, Methodology, Visualization, Writing – original draft

* E-mail: [email protected]

Affiliations Department of Sociology, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom, Canberra School of Professional Studies, University of New South Wales, Canberra, Australia

ORCID logo

Roles Conceptualization, Investigation, Methodology, Writing – original draft

Affiliations Department of Sociology, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom, Oxford School of Global and Area Studies, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom

Roles Formal analysis, Methodology, Writing – review & editing

Affiliations Department of Sociology, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom, Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom

Roles Funding acquisition, Methodology, Writing – review & editing

Affiliation Department of Software Systems and Cybersecurity, Faculty of IT, Monash University, Victoria, Australia

Roles Conceptualization, Funding acquisition, Methodology, Writing – review & editing

Affiliation Centre d’études européennes et de politique comparée, Sciences Po, Paris, France

  • Miranda Bruce, 
  • Jonathan Lusthaus, 
  • Ridhi Kashyap, 
  • Nigel Phair, 
  • Federico Varese

PLOS

  • Published: April 10, 2024
  • https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0297312
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  • Reader Comments

Table 1

Cybercrime is a major challenge facing the world, with estimated costs ranging from the hundreds of millions to the trillions. Despite the threat it poses, cybercrime is somewhat an invisible phenomenon. In carrying out their virtual attacks, offenders often mask their physical locations by hiding behind online nicknames and technical protections. This means technical data are not well suited to establishing the true location of offenders and scholarly knowledge of cybercrime geography is limited. This paper proposes a solution: an expert survey. From March to October 2021 we invited leading experts in cybercrime intelligence/investigations from across the world to participate in an anonymized online survey on the geographical location of cybercrime offenders. The survey asked participants to consider five major categories of cybercrime, nominate the countries that they consider to be the most significant sources of each of these types of cybercrimes, and then rank each nominated country according to the impact, professionalism, and technical skill of its offenders. The outcome of the survey is the World Cybercrime Index, a global metric of cybercriminality organised around five types of cybercrime. The results indicate that a relatively small number of countries house the greatest cybercriminal threats. These findings partially remove the veil of anonymity around cybercriminal offenders, may aid law enforcement and policymakers in fighting this threat, and contribute to the study of cybercrime as a local phenomenon.

Citation: Bruce M, Lusthaus J, Kashyap R, Phair N, Varese F (2024) Mapping the global geography of cybercrime with the World Cybercrime Index. PLoS ONE 19(4): e0297312. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0297312

Editor: Naeem Jan, Korea National University of Transportation, REPUBLIC OF KOREA

Received: October 11, 2023; Accepted: January 3, 2024; Published: April 10, 2024

Copyright: © 2024 Bruce et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Data Availability: The dataset and relevant documents have been uploaded to the Open Science Framework. Data can be accessed via the following URL: https://osf.io/5s72x/?view_only=ea7ee238f3084054a6433fbab43dc9fb .

Funding: This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program (Grant agreement No. 101020598 – CRIMGOV, Federico Varese PI). FV received the award and is the Primary Investigator. The ERC did not play any role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. Funder website: https://erc.europa.eu/faq-programme/h2020 .

Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

Introduction

Although the geography of cybercrime attacks has been documented, the geography of cybercrime offenders–and the corresponding level of “cybercriminality” present within each country–is largely unknown. A number of scholars have noted that valid and reliable data on offender geography are sparse [ 1 – 4 ], and there are several significant obstacles to establishing a robust metric of cybercriminality by country. First, there are the general challenges associated with the study of any hidden population, for whom no sampling frame exists [ 5 , 6 ]. If cybercriminals themselves cannot be easily accessed or reliably surveyed, then cybercriminality must be measured through a proxy. This is the second major obstacle: deciding what kind of proxy data would produce the most valid measure of cybercriminality. While there is much technical data on cybercrime attacks, this data captures artefacts of the digital infrastructure or proxy (obfuscation) services used by cybercriminals, rather than their true physical location. Non-technical data, such as legal cases, can provide geographical attribution for a small number of cases, but the data are not representative of global cybercrime. In short, the question of how best to measure the geography of cybercriminal offenders is complex and unresolved.

There is tremendous value in developing a metric for cybercrime. Cybercrime is a major challenge facing the world, with the most sober cost estimates in the hundreds of millions [ 7 , 8 ], but with high-end estimates in the trillions [ 9 ]. By accurately identifying which countries are cybercrime hotspots, the public and private sectors could concentrate their resources on these hotspots and spend less time and funds on cybercrime countermeasures in countries where the problem is limited. Whichever strategies are deployed in the fight against cybercrime (see for example [ 10 – 12 ]), they should be targeted at countries that produce the largest cybercriminal threat [ 3 ]. A measure of cybercriminality would also enable other lines of scholarly inquiry. For instance, an index of cybercriminality by country would allow for a genuine dependent variable to be deployed in studies attempting to assess which national characteristics–such as educational attainment, Internet penetration, or GDP–are associated with cybercrime [ 4 , 13 ]. These associations could also be used to identify future cybercrime hubs so that early interventions could be made in at-risk countries before a serious cybercrime problem develops. Finally, this metric would speak directly to theoretical debates on the locality of cybercrime, and organized crime more generally [ 11 – 14 ]. The challenge we have accepted is to develop a metric that is both global and robust. The following sections respectively outline the background elements of this study, the methods, the results, and then discussion and limitations.

Profit-driven cybercrime, which is the focus of this paper/research, has been studied by both social scientists and computer scientists. It has been characterised by empirical contributions that have sought to illuminate the nature and organisation of cybercrime both online and offline [ 15 – 20 ]. But, as noted above, the geography of cybercrime has only been addressed by a handful of scholars, and they have identified a number of challenges connected to existing data. In a review of existing work in this area, Lusthaus et al. [ 2 ] identify two flaws in existing cybercrime metrics: 1) their ability to correctly attribute the location of cybercrime offenders; 2) beyond a handful of examples, their ability to compare the severity and scale of cybercrime between countries.

Building attribution into a cybercrime index is challenging. Often using technical data, cybersecurity firms, law enforcement agencies and international organisations regularly publish reports that identify the major sources of cyber attacks (see for example [ 21 – 24 ]). Some of these sources have been aggregated by scholars (see [ 20 , 25 – 29 ]). But the kind of technical data contained in these reports cannot accurately measure offender location. Kigerl [ 1 ] provides some illustrative remarks:

Where the cybercriminals live is not necessarily where the cyberattacks are coming from. An offender from Romania can control zombies in a botnet, mostly located in the United States, from which to send spam to countries all over the world, with links contained in them to phishing sites located in China. The cybercriminal’s reach is not limited by national borders (p. 473).

As cybercriminals often employ proxy services to hide their IP addresses, carry out attacks across national boundaries, collaborate with partners around the world, and can draw on infrastructure based in different countries, superficial measures do not capture the true geographical distribution of these offenders. Lusthaus et al. [ 2 ] conclude that attempts to produce an index of cybercrime by country using technical data suffer from a problem of validity. “If they are a measure of anything”, they argue, “they are a measure of cyber-attack geography”, not of the geography of offenders themselves (p. 452).

Non-technical data are far better suited to incorporating attribution. Court records, indictments and other investigatory materials speak more directly to the identification of offenders and provide more granular detail on their location. But while this type of data is well matched to micro-level analysis and case studies, there are fundamental questions about the representativeness of these small samples, even if collated. First, any sample would capture cases only where cybercriminals had been prosecuted, and would not include offenders that remain at large. Second, if the aim was to count the number of cybercrime prosecutions by country, this may reflect the seriousness with which various countries take cybercrime law enforcement or the resources they have to pursue it, rather than the actual level of cybercrime within each country (for a discussion see [ 30 , 31 ]). Given such concerns, legal data is also not an appropriate approach for such a research program.

Furthermore, to carry out serious study on this topic, a cybercrime metric should aim to include as many countries as possible, and the sample must allow for variation so that high and low cybercrime countries can be compared. If only a handful of widely known cybercrime hubs are studied, this will result in selection on the dependent variable. The obvious challenge in providing such a comparative scale is the lack of good quality data to devise it. As an illustration, in their literature review Hall et al. [ 10 ] identify the “dearth of robust data” on the geographical location of cybercriminals, which means they are only able to include six countries in their final analysis (p. 285. See also [ 4 , 32 , 33 ]).

Considering the weaknesses within both existing technical and legal data discussed above, Lusthaus et al. [ 2 ] argue for the use of an expert survey to establish a global metric of cybercriminality. Expert survey data “can be extrapolated and operationalised”, and “attribution can remain a key part of the survey, as long as the participants in the sample have an extensive knowledge of cybercriminals and their operations” (p. 453). Up to this point, no such study has been produced. Such a survey would need to be very carefully designed for the resulting data to be both reliable and valid. One criticism of past cybercrime research is that surveys were used whenever other data was not immediately available, and that they were not always designed with care (for a discussion see [ 34 ]).

In response to the preceding considerations, we designed an expert survey in 2020, refined it through focus groups, and deployed it throughout 2021. The survey asked participants to consider five major types of cybercrime– Technical products/services ; Attacks and extortion ; Data/identity theft ; Scams ; and Cashing out/money laundering –and nominate the countries that they consider to be the most significant sources of each of these cybercrime types. Participants then rated each nominated country according to the impact of the offenses produced there, and the professionalism and technical skill of the offenders based there. Using the expert responses, we generated scores for each type of cybercrime, which we then combined into an overall metric of cybercriminality by country: the World Cybercrime Index (WCI). The WCI achieves our initial goal to devise a valid measure of cybercrime hub location and significance, and is the first step in our broader aim to understand the local dimensions of cybercrime production across the world.

Participants

Identifying and recruiting cybercrime experts is challenging. Much like the hidden population of cybercriminals we were trying to study, cybercrime experts themselves are also something of a hidden population. Due to the nature of their work, professionals working in the field of cybercrime tend to be particularly wary of unsolicited communication. There is also the problem of determining who is a true cybercrime expert, and who is simply presenting themselves as one. We designed a multi-layered sampling method to address such challenges.

The heart of our strategy involved purposive sampling. For an index based entirely on expert opinion, ensuring the quality of these experts (and thereby the quality of our survey results) was of the utmost importance. We defined “expertise” as adult professionals who have been engaged in cybercrime intelligence, investigation, and/or attribution for a minimum of five years and had a reputation for excellence amongst their peers. Only currently- or recently-practicing intelligence officers and investigators were included in the participant pool. While participants could be from either the public or private sectors, we explicitly excluded professionals working in the field of cybercrime research who are not actively involved in tracking offenders, which includes writers and academics. In short, only experts with first-hand knowledge of cybercriminals are included in our sample. To ensure we had the leading experts from a wide range of backgrounds and geographical areas, we adopted two approaches for recruitment. We searched extensively through a range of online sources including social media (e.g. LinkedIn), corporate sites, news articles and cybercrime conference programs to identify individuals who met our inclusion criteria. We then faced a second challenge of having to find or discern contact information for these individuals.

Complementing this strategy, the authors also used their existing relationships with recognised cybercrime experts to recruit participants using the “snowball” method [ 35 ]. This both enhanced access and provided a mechanism for those we knew were bona fide experts to recommend other bona fide experts. The majority of our participants were recruited in this manner, either directly through our initial contacts or through a series of referrals that followed. But it is important to note that this snowball sampling fell under our broader purposive sampling strategy. That is, all the original “seeds” had to meet our inclusion criteria of being a top expert in the first instance. Any connections we were offered also had to meet our criteria or we would not invite them to participate. Another important aspect of this sampling strategy is that we did not rely on only one gatekeeper, but numerous, often unrelated, individuals who helped us with introductions. This approach reduced bias in the sample. It was particularly important to deploy a number of different “snowballs” to ensure that we included experts from each region of the world (Africa, Asia Pacific, Europe, North America and South America) and from a range of relevant professional backgrounds. We limited our sampling strategy to English speakers. The survey itself was likewise written in English. The use of English was partly driven by the resources available for this study, but the population of cybercrime experts is itself very global, with many attending international conferences and cooperating with colleagues from across the world. English is widely spoken within this community. While we expect the gains to be limited, future surveys will be translated into some additional languages (e.g. Spanish and Chinese) to accommodate any non-English speaking experts that we may not otherwise be able to reach.

Our survey design, detailed below, received ethics approval from the Human Research Advisory Panel (HREAP A) at the University of New South Wales in Australia, approval number HC200488, and the Research Ethics Committee of the Department of Sociology (DREC) at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, approval number SOC_R2_001_C1A_20_23. Participants were recruited in waves between 1 August 2020 and 30 September 2021. All participants provided consent to participate in the focus groups, pilot survey, and final survey.

Survey design

The survey comprised three stages. First, we conducted three focus groups with seven experts in cybercrime intelligence/investigations to evaluate our initial assumptions, concepts, and framework. These experts were recruited because they had reputations as some of the very top experts in the field; they represented a range of backgrounds in terms of their own geographical locations and expertise across different types of cybercrime; and they spanned both the public and private sectors. In short, they offered a cross-section of the survey sample we aimed to recruit. These focus groups informed several refinements to the survey design and specific terms to make them better comprehensible to participants. Some of the key terms, such as “professionalism” and “impact”, were a direct result of this process. Second, some participants from the focus groups then completed a pilot version of the survey, alongside others who had not taken part in these focus groups, who could offer a fresh perspective. This allowed us to test technical components, survey questions, and user experience. The pilot participants provided useful feedback and prompted a further refinement of our approach. The final survey was released online in March 2021 and closed in October 2021. We implemented several elements to ensure data quality, including a series of preceding statements about time expectations, attention checks, and visual cues throughout the survey. These elements significantly increased the likelihood that our participants were both suitable and would provide full and thoughtful responses.

The introduction to the survey outlined the survey’s two main purposes: to identify which countries are the most significant sources of profit-driven cybercrime, and to determine how impactful the cybercrime is in these locations. Participants were reminded that state-based actors and offenders driven primarily by personal interests (for instance, cyberbullying or harassment) should be excluded from their consideration. We defined the “source” of cybercrime as the country where offenders are primarily based, rather than their nationality. To maintain a level of consistency, we made the decision to only include countries formally recognised by the United Nations. We initially developed seven categories of cybercrime to be included in the survey, based on existing research. But during the focus groups and pilot survey, our experts converged on five categories as the most significant cybercrime threats on a global scale:

  • Technical products/services (e.g. malware coding, botnet access, access to compromised systems, tool production).
  • Attacks and extortion (e.g. DDoS attacks, ransomware).
  • Data/identity theft (e.g. hacking, phishing, account compromises, credit card comprises).
  • Scams (e.g. advance fee fraud, business email compromise, online auction fraud).
  • Cashing out/money laundering (e.g. credit card fraud, money mules, illicit virtual currency platforms).

After being prompted with these descriptions and a series of images of world maps to ensure participants considered a wide range of regions/countries, participants were asked to nominate up to five countries that they believed were the most significant sources of each of these types of cybercrime. Countries could be listed in any order; participants were not instructed to rank them. Nominating countries was optional and participants were free to skip entire categories if they wished. Participants were then asked to rate each of the countries they nominated against three measures: how impactful the cybercrime is, how professional the cybercrime offenders are, and how technically skilled the cybercrime offenders are. Across each of these three measures, participants were asked to assign scores on a Likert-type scale between 1 (e.g. least professional) to 10 (e.g. most professional). Nominating and then rating countries was repeated for all five cybercrime categories.

This process, of nominating and then rating countries across each category, introduces a potential limitation in the survey design: the possibility of survey response fatigue. If a participant nominated the maximum number of countries across each cybercrime category– 25 countries–by the end of the survey they would have completed 75 Likert-type scales. The repetition of this task, paired with the consideration that it requires, has the potential to introduce respondent fatigue as the survey progresses, in the form of response attrition, an increase in careless responses, and/or increased likelihood of significantly higher/lower scores given. This is a common phenomenon in long-form surveys [ 36 ], and especially online surveys [ 37 , 38 ]. Jeong et al [ 39 ], for instance, found that questions asked near the end of a 2.5 hour survey were 10–64% more likely to be skipped than those at the beginning. We designed the survey carefully, refined with the aid of focus groups and a pilot, to ensure that only the most essential questions were asked. As such, the survey was not overly long (estimated to take 30 minutes). To accommodate any cognitive load, participants were allowed to complete the survey anytime within a two-week window. Their progress was saved after each session, which enabled participants to take breaks between completing each section (a suggestion made by Jeong et al [ 39 ]). Crucially, throughout survey recruitment, participants were informed that the survey is time-intensive and required significant attention. At the beginning of the survey, participants were instructed not to undertake the survey unless they could allocate 30 minutes to it. This approach pre-empted survey fatigue by discouraging those likely to lose interest from participating. This compounds the fact that only experts with a specific/strong interest in the subject matter of the survey were invited to participate. Survey fatigue is addressed further in the Discussion section, where we provide an analysis suggesting little evidence of participant fatigue.

In sum, we designed the survey to protect against various sources of bias and error, and there are encouraging signs that the effects of these issues in the data are limited (see Discussion ). Yet expert surveys are inherently prone to some types of bias and response issues; in the WCI, the issue of selection and self-selection within our pool of experts, as well as geo-political biases that may lead to systematic over- or under-scoring of certain countries, is something we considered closely. We discuss these issues in detail in the subsection on Limitations below.

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This “type” score is then multiplied by the proportion of experts who nominated that country. Within each cybercrime type, a country could be nominated a possible total of 92 times–once per participant. We then multiply this weighted score by ten to produce a continuous scale out of 100 (see Eq (2) ). This process prevents countries that received high scores, but a low number of nominations, from receiving artificially high rankings.

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The analyses for this paper were performed in R. All data and code have been made publicly available so that our analysis can be reproduced and extended.

We contacted 245 individuals to participate in the survey, of which 147 agreed and were sent invitation links to participate. Out of these 147, a total of 92 people completed the survey, giving us an overall response rate of 37.5%. Given the expert nature of the sample, this is a high response rate (for a detailed discussion see [ 40 ]), and one just below what Wu, Zhao, and Fils-Aime estimate of response rates for general online surveys in social science: 44% [ 41 ]. The survey collected information on the participants’ primary nationality and their current country of residence. Four participants chose not to identify their nationality. Overall, participants represented all five major geopolitical regions (Africa, the Asia-Pacific, Europe, North America and South America), both in nationality and residence, though the distribution was uneven and concentrated in particular regions/countries. There were 8 participants from Africa, 11 participants from the Asia Pacific, 27 from North America, and 39 from Europe. South America was the least represented region with only 3 participants. A full breakdown of participants’ nationality, residence, and areas of expertise is included in the Supporting Information document (see S1 Appendix ).

Table 1 shows the scores for the top fifteen countries of the WCI overall index. Each entry shows the country, along with the mean score (out of 10) averaged across the participants who nominated this country, for three categories: impact, professionalism, and technical skill. This is followed by each country’s WCI overall and WCI type scores. Countries are ordered by their WCI overall score. Each country’s highest WCI type scores are highlighted. Full indices that include all 197 UN-recognised countries can be found in S1 Indices .

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https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0297312.t001

Some initial patterns can be observed from this table, as well as the full indices in the supplementary document (see S1 Indices ). First, a small number of countries hold consistently high ranks for cybercrime. Six countries–China, Russia, Ukraine, the US, Romania, and Nigeria–appear in the top 10 of every WCI type index, including the WCI overall index. Aside from Romania, all appear in the top three at least once. While appearing in a different order, the first ten countries in the Technical products/services and Attacks and extortion indices are the same. Second, despite this small list of countries regularly appearing as cybercrime hubs, the survey results capture a broad geographical diversity. All five geopolitical regions are represented across each type. Overall, 97 distinct countries were nominated by at least one expert. This can be broken down into the cybercrime categories. Technical products/services includes 41 different countries; Attacks and extortion 43; Data/identity theft 51; Scams 49; and Cashing out/money laundering 63.

Some key findings emerge from these results, which are further illustrated by the following Figs 1 and 2 . First, cybercrime is not universally distributed. Certain countries are cybercrime hubs, while many others are not associated with cybercriminality in a serious way. Second, countries that are cybercrime hubs specialise in particular types of cybercrime. That is, despite a small number of countries being leading producers of cybercrime, there is meaningful variation between them both across categories, and in relation to scores for impact, professionalism and technical skill. Third, the results show a longer list of cybercrime-producing countries than are usually included in publications on the geography of cybercrime. As the survey captures leading producers of cybercrime, rather than just any country where cybercrime is present, this suggests that, even if a small number of countries are of serious concern, and close to 100 are of little concern at all, the remaining half are of at least moderate concern.

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Base map and data from OpenStreetMap and OpenStreetMap Foundation.

https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0297312.g001

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https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0297312.g002

To examine further the second finding concerning hub specialisation, we calculated an overall “Technicality score”–or “T-score”–for the top 15 countries of the WCI overall index. We assigned a value from 2 to -2 to each type of cybercrime to designate the level of technical complexity involved. Technical products/services is the most technically complex type (2), followed by Attacks and extortion (1), Data/identity theft (0), Scams (-1), and finally Cashing out and money laundering (-2), which has very low technical complexity. We then multiplied each country’s WCI score for each cybercrime type by its assigned value–for instance, a Scams WCI score of 5 would be multiplied by -1, with a final modified score of -5. As a final step, for each country, we added all of their modified WCI scores across all five categories together to generate the T-score. Fig 3 plots the top 15 WCI overall countries’ T-scores, ordering them by score. Countries with negative T-scores are highlighted in red, and countries with positive scores are in black.

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Negative values correspond to lower technicality, positive values to higher technicality.

https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0297312.g003

The T-score is best suited to characterising a given hub’s specialisation. For instance, as the line graph makes clear, Russia and Ukraine are highly technical cybercrime hubs, whereas Nigerian cybercriminals are engaged in less technical forms of cybercrime. But for countries that lie close to the centre (0), the story is more complex. Some may specialise in cybercrime types with middling technical complexity (e.g. Data/identity theft ). Others may specialise in both high- and low-tech crimes. In this sample of countries, India (-6.02) somewhat specialises in Scams but is otherwise a balanced hub, whereas Romania (10.41) and the USA (-2.62) specialise in both technical and non-technical crimes, balancing their scores towards zero. In short, each country has a distinct profile, indicating a unique local dimension.

This paper introduces a global and robust metric of cybercriminality–the World Cybercrime Index. The WCI moves past previous technical measures of cyber attack geography to establish a more focused measure of the geography of cybercrime offenders. Elicited through an expert survey, the WCI shows that cybercrime is not universally distributed. The key theoretical contribution of this index is to illustrate that cybercrime, often seen as a fluid and global type of organized crime, actually has a strong local dimension (in keeping with broader arguments by some scholars, such as [ 14 , 42 ]).

While we took a number of steps to ensure our sample of experts was geographically representative, the sample is skewed towards some regions (such as Europe) and some countries (such as the US). This may simply reflect the high concentration of leading cybercrime experts in these locations. But it is also possible this distribution reflects other factors, including the authors’ own social networks; the concentration of cybercrime taskforces and organisations in particular countries; the visibility of different nations on networking platforms like LinkedIn; and also perhaps norms of enthusiasm or suspicion towards foreign research projects, both inside particular organisations and between nations.

To better understand what biases might have influenced the survey data, we analysed participant rating behaviours with a series of linear regressions. Numerical ratings were the response and different participant characteristics–country of nationality; country of residence; crime type expertise; and regional expertise–were the predictors. Our analysis found evidence (p < 0.05) that participants assigned higher ratings to the countr(ies) they either reside in or are citizens of, though this was not a strong or consistent result. For instance, regional experts did not consistently rate their region of expertise more highly than other regions. European and North American experts, for example, rated countries from these regions lower than countries from other regions. Our analysis of cybercrime type expertise showed even less systematic rating behaviour, with no regression yielding a statistically significant (p < 0.05) result. Small sample sizes across other known participant characteristics meant that further analyses of rating behaviour could not be performed. This applied to, for instance, whether residents and citizens of the top ten countries in the WCI nominated their own countries more or less often than other experts. On this point: 46% of participants nominated their own country at some point in the survey, but the majority (83%) of nominations were for a country different to the participant’s own country of residence or nationality. This suggested limited bias towards nominating one’s own country. Overall, these analyses point to an encouraging observation: while there is a slight home-country bias, this does not systematically result in higher rating behaviour. Longitudinal data from future surveys, as well as a larger participant pool, will better clarify what other biases may affect rating behaviour.

There is little evidence to suggest that survey fatigue affected our data. As the survey progressed, the heterogeneity of nominated countries across all experts increased, from 41 different countries nominated in the first category to 63 different countries nominated in the final category. If fatigue played a significant role in the results then we would expect this number to decrease, as participants were not required to nominate countries within a category and would have been motivated to nominate fewer countries to avoid extending their survey time. We further investigated the data for evidence of survey fatigue in two additional ways: by performing a Mann-Kendall/Sen’s slope trend test (MK/S) to determine whether scores skewed significantly upwards or downwards towards the end of the survey; and by compiling an intra-individual response variability (IRV) index to search for long strings of repeated scores at the end of the survey [ 43 ]. The MK/S test was marginally statistically significant (p<0.048), but the results indicated that scores trended downwards only minimally (-0.002 slope coefficient). Likewise, while the IRV index uncovered a small group of participants (n = 5) who repeatedly inserted the same score, this behaviour was not more likely to happen at the end of the survey (see S7 and S8 Tables in S1 Appendix ).

It is encouraging that there is at least some external validation for the WCI’s highest ranked countries. Steenbergen and Marks [ 44 ] recommend that data produced from expert judgements should “demonstrate convergent validity with other measures of [the topic]–that is, the experts should provide evaluations of the same […] phenomenon that other measurement instruments pick up.” (p. 359) Most studies of the global cybercrime geography are, as noted in the introduction, based on technical measures that cannot accurately establish the true physical location of offenders (for example [ 1 , 4 , 28 , 33 , 45 ]). Comparing our results to these studies would therefore be of little value, as the phenomena being measured differs: they are measuring attack infrastructure, whereas the WCI measures offender location. Instead, looking at in-depth qualitative cybercrime case studies would provide a better comparison, at least for the small number of higher ranked countries. Though few such studies into profit-driven cybercrime exist, and the number of countries included are limited, we can see that the top ranked countries in the WCI match the key cybercrime producing countries discussed in the qualitative literature (see for example [ 3 , 10 , 32 , 46 – 50 ]). Beyond this qualitative support, our sampling strategy–discussed in the Methods section above–is our most robust control for ensuring the validity of our data.

Along with contributing to theoretical debates on the (local) nature of organized crime [ 1 , 14 ], this index can also contribute to policy discussions. For instance, there is an ongoing debate as to the best approaches to take in cybercrime reduction, whether this involves improving cyber-law enforcement capacity [ 3 , 51 ], increasing legitimate job opportunities and access to youth programs for potential offenders [ 52 , 53 ], strengthening international agreements and law harmonization [ 54 – 56 ], developing more sophisticated and culturally-specific social engineering countermeasures [ 57 ], or reducing corruption [ 3 , 58 ]. As demonstrated by the geographical, economic, and political diversity of the top 15 countries (see Table 1 ), the likelihood that a single strategy will work in all cases is low. If cybercrime is driven by local factors, then mitigating it may require a localised approach that considers the different features of cybercrime in these contexts. But no matter what strategies are applied in the fight against cybercrime, they should be targeted at the countries that produce the most cybercrime, or at least produce the most impactful forms of it [ 3 ]. An index is a valuable resource for determining these countries and directing resources appropriately. Future research that explains what is driving cybercrime in these locations might also suggest more appropriate means for tackling the problem. Such an analysis could examine relevant correlates, such as corruption, law enforcement capacity, internet penetration, education levels and so on to inform/test a theoretically-driven model of what drives cybercrime production in some locations, but not others. It also might be possible to make a kind of prediction: to identify those nations that have not yet emerged as cybercrime hubs but may in the future. This would allow an early warning system of sorts for policymakers seeking to prevent cybercrime around the world.

Limitations

In addition to the points discussed above, the findings of the WCI should be considered in light of some remaining limitations. Firstly, as noted in the methods, our pool of experts was not as large or as globally representative as we had hoped. Achieving a significant response rate is a common issue across all surveys, and is especially difficult in those that employ the snowball technique [ 59 ] and also attempt to recruit experts [ 60 ]. However, ensuring that our survey data captures the most accurate picture of cybercrime activity is an essential aspect of the project, and the under-representation of experts from Africa and South America is noteworthy. More generally, our sample size (n = 92) is relatively small. Future iterations of the WCI survey should focus on recruiting a larger pool of experts, especially those from under-represented regions. However, this is a small and hard-to-reach population, which likely means the sample size will not grow significantly. While this limits statistical power, it is also a strength of the survey: by ensuring that we only recruit the top cybercrime experts in the world, the weight and validity of our data increases.

Secondly, though we developed our cybercrime types and measures with expert focus groups, the definitions used in the WCI will always be contestable. For instance, a small number of comments left at the end of the survey indicated that the Cashing out/money laundering category was unclear to some participants, who were unsure whether they should nominate the country in which these schemes are organised or the countries in which the actual cash out occurs. A small number of participants also commented that they were not sure whether the ‘impact’ of a country’s cybercrime output should be measured in terms of cost, social change, or some other metric. We limited any such uncertainties by running a series of focus groups to check that our categories were accurate to the cybercrime reality and comprehensible to practitioners in this area. We also ran a pilot version of the survey. The beginning of the survey described the WCI’s purpose and terms of reference, and participants were able to download a document that described the project’s methodology in further detail. Each time a participant was prompted to nominate countries as a significant source of a type of cybercrime, the type was re-defined and examples of offences under that type were provided. However, the examples were not exhaustive and the definitions were brief. This was done partly to avoid significantly lengthening the survey with detailed definitions and clarifications. We also wanted to avoid over-defining the cybercrime types so that any new techniques or attack types that emerged while the survey ran would be included in the data. Nonetheless, there will always remain some elasticity around participant interpretations of the survey.

Finally, although we restricted the WCI to profit-driven activity, the distinction between cybercrime that is financially-motivated, and cybercrime that is motivated by other interests, is sometimes blurred. Offenders who typically commit profit-driven offences may also engage in state-sponsored activities. Some of the countries with high rankings within the WCI may shelter profit-driven cybercriminals who are protected by corrupt state actors of various kinds, or who have other kinds of relationships with the state. Actors in these countries may operate under the (implicit or explicit) sanctioning of local police or government officials to engage in cybercrime. Thus while the WCI excludes state-based attacks, it may include profit-driven cybercriminals who are protected by states. Investigating the intersection between profit-driven cybercrime and the state is a strong focus in our ongoing and future research. If we continue to see evidence that these activities can overlap (see for example [ 32 , 61 – 63 ]), then any models explaining the drivers of cybercrime will need to address this increasingly important aspect of local cybercrime hubs.

This study makes use of an expert survey to better measure the geography of profit-driven cybercrime and presents the output of this effort: the World Cybercrime Index. This index, organised around five major categories of cybercrime, sheds light on the geographical concentrations of financially-motivated cybercrime offenders. The findings reveal that a select few countries pose the most significant cybercriminal threat. By illustrating that hubs often specialise in particular forms of cybercrime, the WCI also offers valuable insights into the local dimension of cybercrime. This study provides a foundation for devising a theoretically-driven model to explain why some countries produce more cybercrime than others. By contributing to a deeper understanding of cybercrime as a localised phenomenon, the WCI may help lift the veil of anonymity that protects cybercriminals and thereby enhance global efforts to combat this evolving threat.

Supporting information

S1 indices. wci indices..

Full indices for the WCI Overall and each WCI Type.

https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0297312.s001

S1 Appendix. Supporting information.

Details of respondent characteristics and analysis of rating behaviour.

https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0297312.s002

Acknowledgments

The data collection for this project was carried out as part of a partnership between the Department of Sociology, University of Oxford and UNSW Canberra Cyber. The analysis and writing phases received support from CRIMGOV. Fig 1 was generated using information from OpenStreetMap and OpenStreetMap Foundation, which is made available under the Open Database License.

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WTO TRADE FORECASTS

  

In the latest “ Global Trade Outlook and Statistics ” report, WTO economists note that inflationary pressures are expected to abate this year, allowing real incomes to grow again — particularly in advanced economies — thus providing a boost to the consumption of manufactured goods. A recovery of demand for tradable goods in 2024 is already evident, with indices of new export orders pointing to improving conditions for trade at the start of the year.

WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said: “We are making progress towards global trade recovery, thanks to resilient supply chains and a solid multilateral trading framework — which are vital for improving livelihoods and welfare. It's imperative that we mitigate risks like geopolitical strife and trade fragmentation to maintain economic growth and stability.”

High energy prices and inflation continued to weigh heavily on demand for manufactured goods, resulting in a 1.2% decline in world merchandise trade volume for 2023. The decline was larger in value terms, with merchandise exports down 5% to US$ 24.01 trillion. Trade developments on the services side were more upbeat, with commercial services exports up 9% to US$ 7.54 trillion, partly offsetting the decline in goods trade.

Import volumes were down in most regions but especially in Europe, where they fell sharply. The main exceptions were large fuel-exporting economies, whose imports were sustained by strong export revenues as energy prices remained high by historical standards. World trade remained well above its pre-pandemic level throughout 2023. By the fourth quarter it was nearly unchanged compared to the same period in the 2022 (+0.1%) and had only risen slightly compared to the same period in 2021 (+0.5%).

The report further estimates global GDP growth at market exchange rates will remain mostly stable over the next two years at 2.6% in 2024 and 2.7% in 2025, after slowing to 2.7% in 2023 from 3.1% in 2022. The contrast between the steady growth of real GDP and the slowdown in real merchandise trade volume is linked to inflationary pressures, which had a downward effect on consumption of trade-intensive goods, particularly in Europe and North America.

chart 3

Downside risks

Moving forward, the report warns that geopolitical tensions and policy uncertainty could limit the extent of the trade rebound. Food and energy prices could again be subject to price spikes linked to geopolitical events. The report's special analytical section on the Red Sea crisis notes that while the economic impact of the Suez Canal disruptions stemming from the Middle East conflict has so far been relatively limited, some sectors, such as automotive products, fertilisers and retail, have already been affected by delays and freight costs hikes.

The report furthermore presents new data indicating that geopolitical tensions have affected trade patterns marginally but have not triggered a sustained trend toward de-globalization. Bilateral trade between the United States and China, which reached a record high in 2022, grew 30% less in 2023 than did their trade with the rest of the world. Moreover, for the whole of 2023, global trade in non-fuel intermediate goods — which provides a useful gauge of the status of global value chains — was down 6%.

Signs of fragmentation may also be emerging in services trade: US imports of information, computer, and telecommunications (ICT) services from North American trading partners (mostly Canada) increased from 15.7% of total ICT imports in 2018 to 23.0% in 2023 while US imports of the same from Asian trading partners (mostly India) fell from 45.1% to 32.6%. Fragmentation of data flow policies along geopolitical lines, moreover, could cause global trade of goods and services in real terms to fall by 1.8% and global GDP to decline by 1% according to estimates from a forthcoming study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the WTO.

WTO Chief Economist Ralph Ossa said: “Some governments have become more sceptical about the benefits of trade and have taken steps aimed at re-shoring production and shifting trade towards friendly nations. The resilience of trade is also being tested by disruptions on two of the world's main shipping routes: the Panama Canal, which is affected by freshwater shortages, and the diversion of traffic away from the Red Sea. Under these conditions of sustained disruptions, geopolitical tensions, and policy uncertainty, risks to the trade outlook are tilted to the downside.”

Regional trade outlook

If current projections hold, Africa's exports will grow faster than those of any other region in 2024, up 5.3%; this however is from a low base, since the continent's exports remained depressed after the COVID-19 pandemic. The CIS ( 1 ) region's expected growth is just slightly below 5.3%, also from a reduced base after the region's exports plunged following the war in Ukraine. North America (3.6%), the Middle East (3.5%) and Asia (3.4%) should all see moderate export growth, while South America is expected to grow more slowly, at 2.6%. European exports are once again expected to lag behind those of other regions, with growth of just 1.7%.

Strong import volume growth of 5.6% in Asia and 4.4% in Africa should help prop up global demand for traded goods this year. However, all other regions are expected to see below average import growth, including South America (2.7%), the Middle East (1.2%), North America (1.0%), Europe (0.1%) and the CIS region (-3.8%).

Merchandise exports of least-developed countries (LDCs) are forecasted to grow 2.7% in 2024, down from 4.1% in 2023, before growth accelerates to 4.2% in 2025. Meanwhile, imports by LDCs should grow 6.0% this year and 6.8% next year following a 3.5% contraction in 2023.

table 1

Trade in services

World commercial services trade grew 9% in 2023 despite a decline in freight transport, thanks to recovering international travel and surging digitally delivered services. In 2024, sports events to be held in Europe in the summer, as well as the easing of visa requirements by various countries, are expected to boost tourism and passenger transport.

Global exports of digitally delivered services soared to US$ 4.25 trillion in 2023, up 9.0% year-on-year, and accounted for 13.8% of world exports of goods and services. In 2023, the value of these services — traded over borders through computer networks and encompassing everything from professional and management services to streaming of music and videos, online gaming, and remote education — surpassed pre-pandemic levels by over 50%. In Europe and Asia, which hold a global market share of 52.4% and 23.8% respectively, exports rose by 11% and 9%. Growth accelerated in Africa (13%) and in South and Central America and the Caribbean (11%), exceeding the global average. The two regions, which formed only 0.9% and 1.6% of global exports in 2023, are on the path to take advantage of digitally delivered services trade.

The WTO has released a new dataset on trade in services by mode of supply as in the WTO General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). It provides valuable insights on how services trade has modified over the years, including the impact of digitalization and of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This dataset as well as the latest estimates on digitally delivered services trade and service trade in general can be visualized and downloaded in the Global Services Trade Data Hub . The newly launched Global Services Trade Data Hub gives access to comprehensive WTO services trade data. It provides visualizations and customizable features catering to the diverse needs of trade negotiators, analysts, researchers, and decision-makers, to derive insights.

The full report is available here .

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A sharp increase in burnt areas was recorded during the summer months of 2023, mostly affecting the Mediterranean region. By total burnt surface area, 2023 was the fourth worst year since 2000.

Map of burnt areas in the wider European region

In 2023, an area around twice the size of Luxembourg was burnt in the EU, amounting to more than half a million (504,002) ha, according to the Advance report on Forest Fires in Europe, Middle East and North Africa 2023 . So far in 2024, there have already been almost double the average number of fires for this time of the year, but without a major impact in terms of burnt areas.

The report is based on data provided by the JRC-managed European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) which maps wildfires in Europe and the adjacent regions since 2000.

Analysis by different types of vegetation for 2023 shows that 37% of the total burnt area was covered by shrubs and sclerophyllous vegetation, while 26% (120,000 ha) were forests.

The wildfires resulted in severe damage to the environment, producing some 20 megatonnes (Mt) of CO2 emissions – as estimated by EFFIS – equivalent to nearly a third of all emissions from international aviation in the EU in one year.

The 2023 fire season started with more fires in February and March than is usual, resulting in over 100,000 ha burnt in the EU. Some larger fires took place in Spain as early as March and May. However, the wildfire activity really peaked in the summer months, when fire danger conditions became critical in the Mediterranean region.

By the end of the year, the extent of the burnt area mapped by EFFIS reached 504,002 ha, trailing 2017 (988427 ha), 2022 (837212 ha) and 2007 (588388 ha), the three worst years this century.

High fire danger conditions – dry soil, low humidity and high winds – facilitate the ignition of wildfires and their propagation leading to potentially critical wildfire events, sometimes referred to as megafires. The burning intensity of these fires hampers the efficiency of traditional aerial firefighting techniques, which cannot bring them to control until the fire danger conditions improve and allow the intervention of ground firefighting teams.

In fact, 2023 saw the largest single fire ever to occur in Europe since the 1980s. Ignited on 19 August near Alexandroupoli (Greece), it resulted in a burnt area of over 96,000 ha and caused numerous human casualties. The occurrence of these types of severe wildfire events is related to very high and extreme wildfire danger conditions under climate change.

There are, however, ways to prevent such wildfires, for instance by employing nature-based solutions like vegetation management, increased preparedness by using wildfire early warning systems as well as being ready to deploy the efficient firefighting means that are made available through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism (UCPM) and the fire management services in EU countries. 

At a global scale, 2023 was marked by unprecedented wildfires in many regions of the world, notably in Canada where the estimated burnt area amounted to over 18 million ha (roughly twice the size of Portugal).

What does the first data for 2024 show?

In 2024, droughts and high temperatures that may favor wildfire ignition and spread of wildfires are again being recorded in many areas of the world. The Copernicus Climate Change Service reported that February 2024 has been the warmest on record and the ninth consecutive warmest month. In Europe, wildfires have been recorded in many areas, especially in mountain ranges across the northern areas of the Iberian peninsula.

By mid-March a high number of fires – 1227 – above the average of 645 for this time of the year in the EU, have been mapped by EFFIS, although these did not have major impact in terms of burnt areas.

The Advance report on Forest Fires in Europe, Middle East and North Africa 2023 describes the conditions under which wildfires developed and their impact across the pan-European territory, with an emphasis on the situation in the EU. This report is regularly published by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) to facilitate the access to data and information on the previous year’s fire campaign.

It is available prior to the publication of the annual report of Forest Fires in Europe, Middle East and North Africa, which will include individual chapters provided by the wildfire administrations in the countries of the EFFIS network, currently gathering 40 countries, and will come out in October this year.

Related links

Advance report on Forest Fires in Europe, Middle East and North Africa 2023

European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS)

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