China's basic science takes great leap forward

A newly released study suggests that the huge increase in Chinese research output is starting to be matched by a similar rise in the quality of its basic science.

May 19, 2011

Nature Publishing Index 2010 China reveals that the number of Chinese-authored papers appearing across Nature Publishing Group's 17 journals continued to rise sharply in 2010. The count now stands at 149, compared with just six in 2000.

This is a 25-fold rise, compared with a doubling in the number of Nature journals over the same period. The journals cover most of the basic sciences and many of them are among the leading journals in their fields.

The number of scientific papers from China indexed in Thomson Reuters ISI Web of Science has grown from about 20,000 in 2000 to 130,000 in 2010, but some observers have claimed that the rise in quantity has not been matched by a rise in quality.

The Publishing Index reveals that Chinese success in publishing in other top journals such as Science, Cell, The Lancet and The New England Journal of Medicine has also increased sharply.

The index presents a ranking of Chinese research institutions based on their success in publishing in NPG journals.

The Chinese Academy of Sciences, which has 50,000 researchers spread across 100 institutes, came out top. Its researchers featured in 40 papers, giving a "corrected count" of 13.4 when their fractional contribution to each paper was taken into account. Tsinghua University came second, with 16 papers and a corrected count of 6.2.

Meanwhile, the most successful Chinese city by far in terms of the number of authors published in NPG journals was Beijing, followed by Shanghai, Nanjing, Hefei and Hong Kong.

David Swinbanks, Nature Publishing Group's managing director for Asia and Australasia, said: "Only a few years ago the number of papers in Nature research journals from China would have been too small to carry out this sort of detailed analysis by institution and city."

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