Nature Index 2018 reviews China’s scientific performance over the past five years

(13 December 2018, London) The Nature Index 2018 supplement on China reveals that China’s contribution to the Nature Index rose by 75% between 2012 and 2017, much more than a selection of leading countries in the Index, such as the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom and Japan. China’s share of global scientific output as measured by the Index also continued to rise, from 9 to 16%.

Key findings of the Nature Index 2018 supplement are:

  • China’s strongest academic field is chemistry with half of all articles in the Index concerning that discipline.
  • China has surpassed the UK to become the world’s second most prolific nation in astronomy and space research, trailing only the US in the Index.
  • Peking University tops the ranking of leading institutions followed by Tsinghua University and Nanjing University

The Index also highlights that Chinese researchers are increasingly collaborating internationally. Just under half of China’s articles in the Nature Index were the result of international collaboration in 2015-17, about the same proportion as the US. Such collaboration was particularly prevalent at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Peking University and Tsinghua University.

However, a survey of Chinese academics highlights a number of factors which may be hindering China’s scientific ambitions and the flourishing of innovative practice. Short-term thinking (37%) and official intervention (31%) were high among respondents’ concerns, with 34% recommending a change in the evaluation system for researchers.

Catherine Armitage, Chief Editor of Nature Index, says: “China’s rise is the story of the century in science. The news this year that China surpassed the United States as the world’s largest producer of scientific articles in 2016 should have come as no surprise. But despite a 75 per cent rise since 2012, China remains a distant second to the US in its overall output in the Nature Index, which suggests it still has a way to go on research quality,”

The index tracks contributions to research articles published in 82 high-quality natural science journals, chosen by an independent group of researchers as the journals they would most like to publish their best research in.

The announcement is here.