China Becoming Superpower in Scientific Research

      January 27, 2010 09:47

      China is on its way to becoming a global leader in scientific research. The country has made remarkable progress in scientific research over the last three decades, and is likely to displace the U.S. as the world's leading producer of scientific knowledge in terms of volume by 2020, the Financial Times reported on Tuesday.

      The U.K. newspaper cited an analysis by global financial information provider Thomson Reuters of research papers published in 10,500 scientific journals around the world since 1981. China dominated the number of peer-reviewed papers produced among the BRICs countries -- Brazil, Russia, India and China.

      Scientific research has boomed in China since its opening up and reforms, with the number of published papers increasing 64-fold since 1981, particularly in chemistry and materials science. Some 112,318 scientific papers were produced in China in 2008, one-third of the 332,916 in the U.S., but the growth rate over the last 20 years was 1.5 times faster than that of the U.S. Jonathan Adams, research evaluation director at Thomson Reuters, said China's "awe-inspiring" growth means it is now the second-largest producer of scientific knowledge in the world.

      The progress of China's scientists is mainly due to generous investment by the government, with funding provided to universities and research increasing well above the rate of inflation. Beijing also tempts Chinese scientists working in the U.S. and Europe to return home by allowing them to spend part of their time overseas and part in China.

      While there is skepticism over the quality of China's research, the country is addressing this by actively pursuing joint research with experts from all over the world. Some 9 percent of China's research papers have at least one U.S.-based co-author.

      "If anything, China's recent research performance has exceeded even the high expectations of four or five years ago," said James Wilsdon, science policy director at the Royal Society in London.

      Among the BRICs countries, Brazil has also surged forward in scientific research. In 1981 Brazil produced just one-seventh the amount of research papers as India, but it had caught up by 2008.

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