China’s rising stature in science

June 11, 2009

China’s rising stature in science
Source: Thomson Reuters’ Science Watch, Vol. 20, No. 3, May/June 2009, pp4-5
NumberPaperCitations Nov/Dec 2008Total citations to date
1Superconductivity at 43K in SmFeAsO1-xFx X.H. Chen et al Nature, 453(7196): 761-2, 5 June 2008 (University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei)55257
2Magnetic order close to superconductivity in the iron-based layered LaO1-xFxFeAs systems C. de la Cruz et al Nature, 453(7197): 899-902, 12 June 2008 (Five US institutions and Beijing National Laboratory for Condensed Matter Physics, Institute of Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences)62250
3Superconductivity at 55K in iron-based F-doped layered quaternary compound Sm%5BO1-xFx%5DFeAs Z.A. Ren et al Chinese Physics Letters, 25(6): 2215-6, June 2008 (Chinese Academy of Sciences)45205
4Synthesis of tetrahexahedral platinum nanocrystals with high-index facets and high electro-oxidation activity N. Tian et al Science, 316(5825): 732-5, May 2007 (Xiamen University, Fujian; Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta)19140
5Competing orders and spin-density-wave instability in La(O1-xFx) FeAs J. Dong et al EPL-Europhysics Letters, 83(2): 006, July 2008 (Beijing National Laboratory for Condensed Matter Physics, Institute of Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences)28 136
6Superconductivity and phase diagram in iron-based arsenic-oxides ReFeAsO1-d (Re %3D rare-earth metal) without fluorine doping Z.A. Ren et al EPL-Europhysics Letters, 83(1): 17002, July 2008 (Chinese Academy of Sciences)30119
Chinese research output has increased sharply in the past decade. In 2000, Chinese papers published in the internationally influential science and social-science journals indexed by Thomson Reuters for its ISI Web of Science database amounted to 3.9 per cent of the world’s output, compared with 9.9 per cent last year.

Currently, China’s largest contributions are in the following fields: materials science (21 per cent world share), chemistry (17 per cent), physics (14 per cent), mathematics (13 per cent), engineering (11 per cent) and computer science (11 per cent). Citation impact relative to the world average has also increased, but not so markedly. Among physical science fields, the relative citation impact for China for 2004-08 ranged from 68 per cent to 90 per cent of the world average, with engineering and mathematics at the top. Typically, output increases before a rise in impact is observed, as a developing nation builds a base in terms of scientists, infrastructure and funding.

Thomson Reuters has recognised an increasing presence of Chinese research at the top end — among so-called hot and highly cited research papers. Thomson Reuters’ Essential Science Indicators database reveals that among highly cited papers across all fields in the sciences and social sciences (top 1 per cent in terms of citations, weighted for field and publication year), China was represented in 4.3 per cent. This figure covers papers published in the period 1999 to 2008. China held a 7.3 per cent share among hot papers, which are defined as reports no more than two years old and in the top 0.1 per cent in terms of citations (again, weighted by field and publication date).

The table above lists the top six research papers (by total citations to date) by Chinese scientists featured in Thomson Reuters’ latest Science Watch newsletter. Every two months, Science Watch lists the top ten cited papers in physics, chemistry, biology and medicine. The papers listed are all hot papers. In the current physics and chemistry top tens, China occupies six of 20 possible places. China was not represented at all in the physics and chemistry lists in 2004 and 2005, and only occasionally in 2006 and 2007. While the above listed papers show a clear focus on iron-based superconductors, this increased output of both highly cited and hot papers appears to mark 2008 as a breakout year for China. At the top end, China is making its presence felt.

China admits to a keen interest in having its research recognised with a Nobel prize. The trends outlined above and the appearance of more and more reports among the hot and highly cited group in the physical sciences suggest it may happen.

Next week: citation impact rankings for Scotland

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