China leaps up research league table
20 November 2007
Hepeng Jia/Beijing, China
China has overtaken Japan and the UK to become the world's second largest producer of science and technology (S&T) papers, with the material and chemical sciences registering particularly large increases in their published output.
According to annual statistics released by the Institute of Scientific and Technical Information of China (ISTIC) on 15 November, Chinese scientists published 172,000 papers and conference proceedings in international journals in 2006, accounting for 8.4 per cent of the world's total - a bigger share than all other countries except the US. The figure is 12.4 per cent higher than in 2005, when China toppled Germany to become the world's number four.
Meanwhile, papers published in the past five years by Chinese scientists were cited 171,198 times - an increase of 28.3 per cent on the year before. But despite the boost China remains 13th in the world in terms of citations.
'The statistics reveal the rapid growth in China's S&T outputs and an increasing capacity for innovation,' says Wu Yishan, chief engineer of ISTIC.
- Wu Yishan
The material and chemical sciences have played an important role in pushing up China's international ranking in scientific papers, Wu adds.
In 2006, Chinese chemists published 30,815 papers which were cited 69,538 times - higher than any other discipline. Chemistry also led other disciplines in the number of publications first authored by Chinese scientists that were the outcome of international collaborations - with 1658 papers.
Meanwhile, Chinese material science papers accounted for 13.8 per cent of the world's total and garnered 8.5 per cent of all citations in the field - a higher share of publications and citations than any other discipline.
The ISTIC statistics also show Chinese proceedings published in international academic meetings increased 15.8 per cent in 2006 while the world's total conference proceedings decreased by 9 per cent in the same period.
'More international meeting proceedings have helped China improve its ranking in terms of paper publications, and they also indicate Chinese scientists are more involved in international academic exchanges,' Wu notes.
But Chinese chemists will still need to work hard if they are to catch up with their international counterparts, according to Zhang Lihe, a chemist at Peking University and RSC fellow. 'Compared with the past, Chinese chemical sciences have made great progress, but the gap between us and the international top level remains large,' Zhang told Chemistry World. He added that in the chemical sciences there should not be too much emphasis on the number of papers or citations.