June 6, 2012
In 2022, China could produce more scientific papers than the United States. It is written in the editorial of the latest issue of Nature Publishing Group’s Asia edition. And this prediction is based on the graph against which extrapolates trends in the number of scientific publications from the laboratories of both countries since 1990.
Scientists produce results (observations, experiments, analyzes, theories) in rapidly increasing volume. In addition, the assessment policy of research institutions pushes scientists to publish more papers. In this lucrative market, publishers are also pushing the wheel. As the result, scientific literature – articles describing research results and theories published by researchers in academic journals, generally feature a reading committee responsible for filtering requests to publish – explodes.
But, in this explosion, the major phenomenon of the past decade, it is the sudden arrival of a new giant of science, China. The Middle Kingdom is run by engineers who have learned a lesson from their history. Today, the colossal effort to catch up began in the mid-1980s is bearing fruit. Chinese has taken off in front of the stagnation of most of the “old” countries of science, particularly in Europe.
China is not only the world’s workshop but also the second largest economy in GDP, as evidenced by its carbon dioxide emissions. It has scientific equipment that rival the best in the world. In 2000, China produced nearly 30,000 scientific papers. And almost 150,000 in 2010. These scientific papers, more and more have been published in journals of global excellence, Nature, Science and others. Thus, if we calculate China’s share in the 1% most cited scientific papers by other scientists – a way to measure their influence and importance – it increased from 1.85% in 2001 to 11.3 % in 2011. U.S. still monopolize 50% of these articles in “top”, followed by the United Kingdom and Germany (14% each). Extrapolating the trend, both UK and Germany will be exceeded in 2014. The end of American dominance on scientific production, which enjoyed a hegemonic position in the 1950s, has declined, as its share of most cited articles has dropped from 65% in 2001 to 50% in 2011.