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China surpasses US for 1st time in contributing to research in Nature Index

Chinese researchers discuss the work on the genome-wide screen for novel aging regulatory genes in human stem cells at the cell culture room of the Aging and Regeneration lab at the Institute for Stem Cell and Regeneration of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) in Beijing, China, January 12, 2021. (Photo by Reuters)

The United States is no longer the largest contributor to high-quality natural science as China has surpassed it for the first time in the index of scientific publications Nature Index.

Data on affiliations from the 82 journals tracked by the Nature Index indicated that authors from China had a Share of 19,373 from January to December last year, compared with 17,610 for those from the US, meaning that that the US is no longer the leading power in world science, said a report by the Nature journal.

The percentage of authors from a certain country on each paper published in Nature Index journals makes that country's share. For instance, an article published entirely by China-based researchers would make a share of 1 for China.

Since 2014, when the Nature Index was first introduced, China has shown rapid progress in publishing high-quality science materials, particularly in the physical sciences and chemistry in 2021.

Back in 2018, China overtook the US in terms of the total number of scientific publications, but now it has surpassed it in terms of the number of really important publications that are published in the 82 journals tracked by the Nature Index.

A snapshot of the database taken in April suggested that China also overtook the US in Earth and environmental sciences for the first time in 2022, meaning that China is behind the US only in life sciences.

When measured on "simple bibliometrics like productivity and citations, China has outperformed expectations," said Caroline Wagner, a science and policy researcher at the Ohio State University in Columbus.

She, however, maintained that "numerous scholars have demonstrated that China’s most-cited works are produced in collaboration with other nations, particularly the United States."

The 2023 Nature Index annual tables, due for release in mid-June, will provide a full breakdown of the institutions that have contributed to sending China to the top in Share in 2022. 

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