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China overtakes US in scientific research output: Report

A representative image by Nikkei Asia

A recent report by Japan’s Science and Technology Ministry shows China has overtaken the United States as the world leader in both scientific research output and “high impact” studies.

According to the report, published by Japan’s National Institute of Science and Technology Policy (NISTP), China now publishes the largest number of scientific research papers yearly, followed by the United States and Germany.

China published a yearly average of 407,181 scientific papers, pulling ahead of the US’s 293,434 journal articles and accounting for 23.4% of the world’s research output, the report said.

China also accounted for a high proportion of research into materials science, chemistry, engineering and mathematics.

The figures are based on yearly averages between 2018 and 2020.

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

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

The Japanese report also found that 27.2% of the top 1% of most-cited papers in 2019 came from Chinese institutions.

The number of citations a research paper receives is a commonly used metric in academia. The more times a study is cited in subsequent papers by other researchers, the greater its “citation impact.”

On Tuesday, President Joe Biden of the United States signed the Chips and Science Act, legislation that would authorize more than $200 billion in research funding over 10 years to make US scientific research more competitive with China. “Other countries are closing in fast” on the US, said President Joe Biden during the Act’s signing ceremony.

US lawmakers passed the $280-billion Chips and Science Act out of a fear that China was about to overtake the US in scientific and technological expertise. But the recently released study suggests China was already beating the US.

The Chinese embassy in the US said last month that China was “firmly opposed” to the bill, which it said was “entrenched in [a] cold war and zero-sum game mentality.”

A research published earlier this year found that China had passed the European Union in 2015.

The pace at which China has caught up to the United States is a result of the country’s goal to become a world leader in technology by 2050.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has prioritized investments in research and development in an effort to make China more self-sufficient. The country spent a record $441.3 billion on research and development in 2021.

China’s progress has also been remarkable in the field of science and research. In July, the Aspen Institute, a US think tank, predicted that China would overtake the US in R&D spending by 2025.

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