First-Time Ever, China Surpasses United States In Publishing & Citing ‘Hot Papers’ In Top Global Journals

For the first time, China has outpaced the United States in terms of the number of “hot papers” published and cited in the most influential global journals.

This achievement has been revealed in a freshly released report titled ‘Statistical Data of Chinese S&T Papers,’ published by the Institute of Scientific and Technical Information of China (ISTIC), according to the Chinese media reports. 

ISTIC has been tracking papers published by Chinese researchers in domestic and international journals since 1987, providing valuable insights into China’s ever-increasing scientific influence on the world stage. 

The new report said that Chinese researchers published 1,929 hot papers, 46 percent of the global total, while the US followed with 1,592 hot papers. Following closely in the rankings are Britain, Germany, and Australia.  

These “hot papers” represent a category of research articles that swiftly accumulate substantial citations shortly after publication, often within rapidly evolving fields such as molecular biology and materials science.

Hot papers distinguish themselves by achieving swift and extensive recognition due to their significance within high-interest fields. Unlike most papers, which reach their citation peak two to four years after publication, hot papers often see rapid and widespread citation within a shorter timeframe. 

They must be no more than two years old and feature citations within the top 0.1 percent in their respective fields over the past two months.

Meanwhile, the new report also mentioned that Beijing has emerged as the frontrunner in the international papers citation rankings across six major disciplines: agricultural sciences, chemistry, computer science, engineering, materials science, and mathematics. 

In addition to hot papers, the report also discusses highly cited papers, which are based on a decade of publication data and are associated with groundbreaking contributions to their fields. 

China ranks second in this category, with 57,900 highly cited papers. Meanwhile, the United States maintains its lead with 76,600 highly cited papers, amounting to 41 percent of the global total.

The development underscores China’s growing prominence in the global scientific community, demonstrating its commitment to advancing research and innovation across various domains.

China’s Increasing Contributions To Science Journals

Scientific research serves as the catalyst propelling competitive industries and driving the engines of thriving economies. The extent of present research capabilities is key to future market dominance in emerging domains like artificial intelligence. 

Moreover, these research endeavors may not only influence market positions but also directly influence national security considerations. 

China has made significant strides in advanced research in recent years, steadily expanding its influence. It surpassed the United States in the total number of scientific papers in 2020 and the number of papers ranking in the top 10% for citations in 2021. 

A report from the National Institute of Science and Technology Policy of Japan also revealed that between 2018 and 2020, China significantly outpaced the United States regarding scientific paper publications. 

During this period, China consistently published at least 407,181 papers annually, while the United States lagged with 293,434 papers. 

Arijita Sinha Roy, a Researcher at India-based Centre For Joint Warfare Studies (CENJOWS), told EurAsian Times that the swift transition of China overtaking the US in publishing top scientific reports did not happen immediately. 

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Roy pointed out, “China’s expenditure for R&D in the country has been consistent despite its economic challenges. The trend that principally follows when any country faces economic headwinds is to cut spending on these domains.

“However, if one closely compares the statistics revealed by China’s National Bureau Of Statistics, it is evident that China has systematically maintained its expenditure on promoting R&D. Interestingly, China has increased its expenditure on R&D in 2022, expecting even more spur in cultivating homegrown R&D culture.”

“The other factor attributing to this shift is decoding China’s Strategy to attract foreign investment for R&D within the country. It is very tactical; it allows the creation of a balance between domestic and foreign markets and, at the same time, channels foreign resources into the country. This also provides China with an impetus to upscale its existing R&D structures and institutions,” she added. 

Furthermore, Roy emphasized, “Geoeconomically and geopolitically, the great power rivalry has pushed China to achieve technological self-sufficiency. This self-sufficiency would be difficult to achieve by relying on foreign R&D. This self-sufficiency has always been reflected through policies of the Chinese Presidents and the Communist Party itself.” 

“If one looks at Chinese history, self-sufficiency has always echoed through the ethos and principles of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which is part of China’s reform. Investing in indigenously led R&D is a step towards achieving the reform. Furthermore, it also can be seen as China’s grand strategy to displace the US-led discourse as the helmsman for global R&D,” she noted. 

That being said, the ascendancy of China over the US in scientific journal contributions underscores the evolving dynamics between the two nations and signifies China’s expanding influence in the global scientific community.