China surpasses the US in scientific research volume and quality, study claims

China produced an average of 407,181 scientific publications annually, overtaking the US's 293,434 journal articles, says research.
Baba Tamim
A science researcher.
A science researcher.

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  • Chinese research comprised 27.2 percent of the world's top one percent of most frequently cited papers
  • US research made up 24.9 percent of the top one percent of most frequently referenced research studies
  • The report was released on the same day US President Joe Biden authorized $200 billion in research investment

China has overcome the US to take the top spot globally for "high impact" studies and volume of scientific research, according to a report published by Japan's National Institute of Science and Technology Policy (NISTP).

China currently publishes the most scholarly papers each year, followed by the US and Germany, reported The Guardian.

"China is one of the top countries in the world in terms of both the quantity and quality of scientific papers," Shinichi Kuroki of the Japan Science and Technology Agency told Nikkei Asia.

"In order to become the true global leader, it will need to continue producing internationally recognized research."

The analysis indicated that China produced an average of 407,181 scientific publications annually, overtaking the US's 293,434 journal articles and making up 23.4 percent of global research production.

NISTP report also found that Chinese research comprised 27.2 percent of the world's top one percent of most frequently cited papers.

Academia frequently uses the number of citations a research publication receives. The "citation impact" of a study increases with the number of times it is referenced in future articles by other researchers.

The estimates were derived from data gathered by the analytics company Clarivate and were based on yearly averages between 2018 and 2020.

US research made up 24.9 percent of the top one percent of most frequently referenced research studies, with UK research coming in third at 5.5 percent.

Meanwhile, Materials science, chemistry, engineering, and mathematics research were heavily concentrated in China.

US researchers, however, were more active in the fields of physics, fundamental life sciences, and clinical medicine.

Report released same day US authorized $200 bn for research

The report was released the same day US President Joe Biden authorized $200 billion in research investment over a ten-year period to increase the US's scientific research's competitiveness with China.

The law is "entrenched in [a] cold war and zero-sum game mentality," and China is "firmly opposed" to the bill, the Chinese embassy in the US stated last month.

The "high impact" finding is consistent with studies released earlier this year, which found that China passed the European Union in 2015 and the US in 2019 in terms of the top one percent measure.

Studies that are cited more than 99 percent of the time are considered to be "works that are seen as being in the class of Nobel prize winners, the very leading edge of science," said Dr. Caroline Wagner, co-author of the study.

"The US has tended to rank China's work as lower quality. This appears to have changed."

The survey also revealed that the US continues to spend more than any other nation on research and development in both the corporate and academic sectors.

"China has the largest number of researchers in the corporate and university sectors among major countries," the research said.

"In the corporate sector, the United States and China are on par with each other, and both are showing rapid growth."

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