China’s scientific papers have seen steady improvement in quality, quantity and global influence in recent years, but the overall gap in quantity and quality between papers from China and the United States remains large, according to a report published on Nov 1.
This year, China has moved into second place in two new scientific fields behind the US－geoscience and plant and animal science－according to the number of citations from 2008 to October this year.
The results are from the 2018 edition of Statistical Data of Chinese Science and Technology Papers. The report, which examines scientific output from the Chinese mainland, has been released annually since 1987 by the Ministry of Science and Technology’s Institute of Scientific and Technical Information.
Academic paper citation is a key indication of a paper’s quality and influence. The number of citations has long been treated as a reflection of a nation’s strength in scientific research.
China is still the world’s most-cited country in materials science research, same as last year, the report said, adding that China now has 10 fields in which it ranks second globally. These are agricultural science, chemistry, computer science, engineering, environmental science, mathematics, physics, pharmaceuticals, geoscience and plant and animal science.
“The overall quality of China’s science academic literature has steadily improved in recent years, but there is still a substantial gap between China and the US,” said Dai Guoqiang, the director of the institute.
From 2008 to October 2018, Chinese scientists published more than 2.27 million international papers. Universities and research institutes from Beijing, Jiangsu province and Shanghai are the top three publishers of these papers.
The US and United Kingdom published more than 3.9 million and 1.2 million papers respectively from 2008 to October 2018, according to the Science Citation Index, a global scientific literature database. China ranked second for the ninth consecutive year behind the US.
Chinese scientists have also published more than 97,400 papers in collaboration with peers from more than 150 countries and regions in 2017, the report said. Among those papers, 67,902 had Chinese scientists as lead authors－individuals who take the overall responsibility for the manuscript and have made the most significant contribution to the research.
However, the average number of citations per paper by Chinese authors still needs great improvement. Of the papers published by Chinese within the last decade, each received an average 10 citations, ranking China 16th out of the 22 nations that had published more than 200,000 papers, according to the index.
China also needs to contribute more to social sciences research. Of the 323,800 papers from the Social Science Citation Index, Chinese social scientists only wrote 20,000, placing China fourth behind the US, UK and Australia, the report said.