China assumes lead in science and tech research paper output
25 Jan 2018
China has overtaken the USA as the world’s leading producer of scientific and technological research papers for the first time.
Confirmation of the news comes from America’s National Science Foundation’s two yearly report Science and Engineering Indicators which reveals that Beijing actually assumed pole position two years ago.
Evidence drawn from the Scopus database managed by Elsevier revealed that 426,000 Chinese papers were published in 2016. The USA ranked a decisive second with 409,000 published papers.
“This year’s report shows a trend that the US still leads by many S&T measures, but that our lead is decreasing in certain areas that are important to our country,” said Maria Zuber, NSB chair and vice president for research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“That trend raises concerns about impacts on our economy and workforce, and has implications for our national security. From gene editing to artificial intelligence, scientific advancements come with inherent risks. And it’s critical that we stay at the forefront of science to mitigate those risks.”
While the results have caused concern in the USA and the West over the growing predominance of China, commentators have observed the country’s advance has been inconsistent.
[The] trend raises concerns about impacts on our economy and workforce, and has implications for our national security... it's critical that we stay at the forefront of science
Maria Zuber, NSB chair and vice president for research. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The Washington Post pointed out that the US continued to outrank China for citations from papers – with both countries outstripped by Sweden and Switzerland.
While China had the lead in engineering research, the US and EU both produce more biomedical papers.
In addition China’s vastly larger population and rapid development meant it had a much higher demand for trained engineers and scientists.
However, NSB member and vice president and chief internet evangelist at Google Vinton Cerf, warned: “We risk the continued success of the American enterprise if we fail to adopt policies that reinforce this boundless triad of opportunity. It is time to reverse the declining trend in federal research support and re-invigorate American innovation.”