China overtakes the US in scientific research

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China has overtaken the United States as the world leader in both scientific research and high-impact studies, according to a report published by Japan’s Ministry of Science and Technology.

The report, published by Japan’s National Institute for Science and Technology Policy (NISTP) on Tuesday, found that China now publishes the highest number of scientific research papers annually, followed by the US and Germany.

The figures were based on annual averages between 2018 and 2020, and taken from data collected by the analysis firm Clarivate.

The Japanese NISTP report also found that Chinese research accounted for 27.2% of the world’s top 1% most cited papers. The number of citations a research paper receives is a common calculation in academia. The more times a study is cited in subsequent articles by other researchers, the greater its “citation effect”.

The US accounted for 24.9% of the top 1% most cited research studies, while UK research was third with 5.5%.

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China published an annual average of 407,181 scientific articles, surpassing the US’s 293,434 journal articles and accounting for 23.4% of the world’s research output, the report found.

China accounted for a high proportion of research in materials science, chemistry, engineering and mathematics, while US researchers were more productive in research in clinical medicine, basic life sciences and physics.

The report was published on the day US President Joe Biden signed the Chips and Science Act, legislation that would provide $200 billion in research funding over 10 years to make American scientific research more competitive with China.

The Chinese Embassy in the United States said last month that China was “firmly opposed” to the bill, which it said was “rooted in [a] cold war and zero sum game mentality’.

The “high impact” finding is in line with research published earlier this year, which found China overtook the US in 2019 in the top 1% target, passing the EU in 2015.

Papers that receive more citations than 99% of research are “works considered to be in the class of Nobel laureates, the cutting edge of science,” study co-author Dr. Caroline Wagner said at the time. “The US has tended to rate China’s work as lower quality. This seems to have changed.”

The US still spends more on research and development in the corporate and university sectors than any other country, the report also found. “China has the largest number of researchers in the corporate and university sectors among major countries. In the corporate sector, the US and China are on par with each other, and both are showing rapid growth.”

“China is one of the best countries in the world in terms of both quantity and quality of scientific articles,” Shinichi Kuroki of the Japan Science and Technology Agency told Nikkei Asia. “To become the true global leader, it must continue to produce internationally recognized research,” he said.

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