China leads world in top scientific papers, report says

China has led the world for the first time in the number of published "hot papers", demonstrating the nation's growing productivity and prestige in frontier scientific research, according to an annual report published on Thursday by the Institute of Scientific and Technical Information of China.

By the end of September, China had published 1,808 hot papers, a year-on-year increase of 19.3 percent and accounting for 41.7 percent of the world's total. The United States came in second with 1,730 hot papers, according to the 2022 edition of the report titled "Statistical Data of Science and Technology Papers".

The Institute of Scientific and Technical Information of China, which is affiliated with the Ministry of Science and Technology, has been publishing this annual report since 1987.

Hot papers refer to studies published in the past two years that have been widely cited recently, and their number of citations is ranked in the top 0.1 percent of their respective fields, the report said.

This category is reserved for high-quality research that makes an immediate impact once published. Therefore, these papers typically showcase the latest and biggest scientific and technological discoveries, and indicate future research trends.

China is also leading the world in five scientific fields in terms of the total number of citations generated by the country's international academic papers over the past decade. The fields are agricultural science, materials science, chemistry, computer science and engineering technology, with agricultural science being added to the list this year.

Zhao Zhiyun, director of the institute, said researchers, administrators and policymakers use these reports to evaluate the productivity of scientific communities and identify new developments, thus allowing them to plan future research projects more efficiently.

Regarding "highly cited papers", which are studies ranking in the top 1 percent in terms of the number of citations over the past decade, China remains the world's second-largest contributor, publishing 49,900 papers or 27.3 percent of the world's total. The US leads with 78,500 papers, which is 42.9 percent of the global share.

In 2021, China co-authored 149,200 papers with international peers, and 68.3 percent of them had Chinese scientists as the first author. China's academic partners featured 173 countries and regions, and the top six most prolific collaborators were the US, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Germany and Japan.

The same year, China published 532 mega collaboration studies, a year-on-year increase of 9.7 percent, with each study involving over 50 institutions and 100 authors. The topics included particle physics, astronomy and astrophysics and nuclear physics.