Why It Matters | China beats U.S. in contributions to science journals

Author affiliations to Chinese institutions have also increased in most scientific branches relative to their American counterparts

June 02, 2023 01:18 pm | Updated 01:18 pm IST

Representative image.

Representative image. | Photo Credit: Reuters

What is it? China has surpassed the U.S. as the biggest contributor to nature and science journals, The Guardianreports. Author affiliations to Chinese institutions have also increased in most scientific branches, including the physical sciences, chemistry, environmental and earth sciences, relative to their U.S. counterparts. A report by the National Institute of Science and Technology Policy of Japan also said that in 2018-2020, China published at least 407,181 papers in a year as compared to 293,434 from the U.S. It also said that China-based research accounted for a larger share of the top 1% of the most frequently-cited studies than American studies.

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What is the context?

  • China’s President, Xi Jinping, has promised to push more funding into research as academia increasingly becomes “a frontier for technological competition.”
  • Mr. Jinping’s aim is to make China a world leader in scientific research. 
  • Mention of Chinese papers also increased due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. References to genome-sequence data of the virus also led to higher citations.
  • China overtaking the US in its contribution to scientific journals shows the changing dynamics between the two countries and China’s growing dominance in the world order.
  • The report also cited allegations of low-quality or fraudulent research being published.
  • The famous science integrity consultant and scientific-fraud sleuth Elisabeth Bik has reportedly discovered “hundreds of cases of unsubstantiated research coming from China.”

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Why does it matter?

  • Despite being the biggest bilateral collaborators, scientists from China and the U.S. have found it very hard to collaborate ever since relations between the two countries soured.
  • At least 100 scientists lost their jobs after the ‘China initiative’ of the U.S. Justice Department decided to “root out” Chinese spies, the report said.
  • Even though China has ranked higher than the US in terms of churning out the amount of research, scientists in China say that they are pushed to “prioritise quantity over quality”.
  • To curb this, in 2020, China’s Ministry of Science and Technology banned universities and institutions from granting financial incentives to publish more studies.
  • India, on the other hand, has ranked third globally in terms of the amount of research produced, according to a 2019 report by the National Science Foundation.
  • However, there was no significant growth in the quality of research which is typically measured by the number of citations within other research papers, the report said.
  • India has also seen a rise in fraudulent research papers in recent times with multiple studies being recalled or being put under review for alleged data manipulation, plagiarism and the practice of predatory publication.

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