China Overtakes US as World's Top Scientific Paper Provider

In third position comes Germany, followed by Japan in fourth place.
Fabienne Lang

China has typically been a top contender in the world in many industries: the electrical vehicle market, cryptocurrency creation, robotics. You name it, China's got a hand in the pot too.

With new data shared on Friday, it appears that China is now the leader in releasing scientific research papers in the natural sciences, jumping ahead of the U.S.

Germany comes third, and Japan fourth, as per the Nikkei Asian Review.


China as the leader in R&D

The data clearly shows China as a leader in scientific investigation as it boasts 19.9% of scientific papers published, compared to the U.S. with 18.3%. As per the Nikkei Asian Review's report, these numbers are based on peer-reviewed papers published in scientific journals. 

If we go a little back in time, between 2016 and 2018, China published 305,927 papers, taking over the U.S.' 281,487 papers, and then Germany's 67,041 papers, making the latter the third-largest scientific paper producing country.

The numbers are clear to see via a graph produced by Japan's Insitute for Science and Technology Policy, which took the numbers from the U.S.-based Clarivate Analytics

China Overtakes US as World's Top Scientific Paper Provider
China has been on a fast-rising curb since 2003, Source: Nikkei Asian Review

Breaking it down into years, China has published 18 times more research papers compared to its average between 1996 and 1998, and 3.6 times more compared with the 2006-2008 time span. 

And we're not just talking about churning out research papers that few care about. Even though the U.S. remains on top in terms of numbers of research papers cited, China is not far behind. Of the top 10% most-cited papers in 2017, 24.7% were from the U.S., and 22% from China, as per the Nikkei.

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And in terms of the top 1% of most-cited papers in the world, the U.S. is at 29.3%, with China at 21%

That said, the specializations between the two leading nations are different. China's papers focus more closely on materials science, chemistry, engineering, computer science, and mathematics. Whereas the U.S.' concentrate on clinical medicine and basic life sciences. 

And in terms of researchers, China boasts 1.87 million, whereas the U.S. has 1.43 million

H/T Nikkei Asian Review

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