China overtakes UK in ‘highly cited researchers’ table

Country now second to US on annual list of scholars producing multiple papers in top 1 per cent by citation 

November 19, 2019
Source: iStock

China has overtaken the UK for the number of researchers appearing on an annual list of the most highly cited scholars.

Scientists working in the country now make up one in 10 of those named on the list of Highly Cited Researchers, published by Clarivate Analytics. 

This puts China in second place behind the US in terms of the countries with the most authors deemed highly cited by virtue of producing multiple papers ranked in the top 1 per cent of citations for their field and year of publication.

China now has 636 scholars on a combined list that includes researchers who are highly cited in at least one of 21 different fields or have been deemed highly cited across a number of different subjects. This is up from about 480 in 2018, while the number of China-based researchers deemed highly cited across the 21 fields has tripled since 2014.

The US still has by far the most researchers on the lists with a total of more than 2,700, a rise on last year thanks to an increase in the number of scholars who are highly cited across different fields.

However, the UK and Germany have both fallen back: the UK now has 516 highly cited researchers in total, down from 549 last year, while Germany has dropped from 356 to 327.

Meanwhile, the number of researchers based in Australia who make the list has continued to grow. In 2014, the country had just 2.5 per cent of the researchers deemed highly cited in one or more of the 21 fields but now it has 4.6 per cent.

Among the individual researchers on the list are 23 Nobel laureates, including three announced this year: Gregg Semenza of Johns Hopkins University (Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine), John Goodenough of the University of Texas at Austin (chemistry) and Esther Duflo of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (economics).

Of the researchers named highly cited in one or more subject area, 185 make the cut for two different fields while 11 are named as highly cited in three categories.

The list of institutions with the most highly cited researchers continues to be headed by Harvard University, with a total of 203 scholars – 21 more than last year – followed by Stanford University (103). However, the Chinese Academy of Sciences (101 highly cited researchers) is now very close to taking second place.

David Pendlebury, senior citation analyst at Clarivate's Institute for Scientific Information, said: “Recognition and support of these exceptional researchers represents an important activity for a nation or an institution’s plans for efficient and accelerated advancement.

“The Highly Cited Researchers list contributes to the identification of that small fraction of the researcher population that significantly extends the frontiers of knowledge.”

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Reader's comments (1)

Considering the vast resources being poured into Chinese institutions, and their huge population compared to that of the UK, they ought to have surpassed us long ago. It just shows that we are holding our own on the world stage.