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China leads world in four scientific fields

Scientists discusses an experiment in a lab in Liaoning province. (XIE ZHENLIN / FOR CHINA DAILY)

China is leading the world in four scientific fields in terms of the total number of citations generated by the country's international academic papers published over the past decade, according to annual reports published on Monday by the Institute of Scientific and Technical Information of China, an organization affiliated with the Ministry of Science and Technology.

These four fields are materials science, chemistry, engineering technology and computer science, with computer science being added to the list this year, the reports said. China also holds second place in 10 other fields, including agricultural science, biology and biochemistry, and environmental and ecological sciences.

The data for the reports was collected from global scientific literature databases including the Science Citation Index, Scopus and Ei Compendex.

Last year, China published 1,833 research papers and articles in 15 of the world's top scientific publications, including Nature, Science and Cell. This feat placed China two spots higher on the ranking than 2019, reaching second place last year behind the United States

Academic citation is one of the key indicators of a paper's quality and influence, and a country's total number of citations in a scientific field is commonly seen as a reflection of its overall research capability in that discipline.

Last year, China published 1,833 research papers and articles in 15 of the world's top scientific publications, including Nature, Science and Cell. This feat placed China two spots higher on the ranking than 2019, reaching second place last year behind the United States.

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Zhao Zhiyun, director of the institute, said these achievements meant China's scientific literature has made noticeable progress in producing an increasing number of high-quality papers with global influence.

"We hope our reports can provide timely insights for science workers, administrators and policymakers to identify the latest trend in China's scientific literature and publication sector," she said.

Experts said that China climbed in the global ranking partly due to Chinese scientists publishing a large quantity of papers regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as co-authoring and publishing more papers with international peers.

Researchers work at the National Supercomputing Center in Shenzhen. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

Among them, Huang Chaolin, president of Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital, published a paper in January last year in the journal The Lancet that described the clinical features of patients infected with the novel coronavirus in Wuhan, Hubei province. It had been cited over 13,000 times as of September, Zhao said.

Experts said that China climbed in the global ranking partly due to Chinese scientists publishing a large quantity of papers regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as co-authoring and publishing more papers with international peers

Last year, Chinese scientists co-wrote around 144,500 scientific papers, 14,400 more than in 2019, with collaborators from 169 countries and regions. China's total number of co-authored papers had increased by 11.1 percent in 2020 compared with the previous year, with the US being China's biggest partner in scientific literature.

China also published 485 megacollaboration scientific papers last year, each involving at least 100 scientists and 50 research institutions, in fields such as particle physics, astrophysics and nuclear physics.

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Guo Tiecheng, deputy director of the institute, said that from 2011 to October, China had published over 3.36 million international scientific papers, and these papers had been cited over 43.32 million times within that period. The US remains the world's top producer of scientific papers and has the largest number of citations.

However, China's average number of citations per paper is around 12.8 within the 10-year period, which is lower than the global average of 13.6, Guo said.