China gains ground in ranking of research nations

By Angus McNeice in London | | Updated: 2017-10-17 00:18

Academic research papers from the United States garner the most worldwide citations, followed by those from China and the United Kingdom, according to a new study.

The analysis was conducted by Amsterdam-based information and analytics company Elsevier and commissioned by the UK's Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Citations are the way in which scholars give credit to other researchers and acknowledge their ideas. They indicate how seriously research is taken by other scientists.

Elsevier assessed the performance of the UK's research base between 2010 and 2014 and compared it with seven other countries: China, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the US.

In 2014, research papers originating in the UK accounted for 10.7 percent of all citations, which was slightly down from the 11 percent they garnered in 2010. China's share in 2014 was 18.1 percent, a sharp increase from the 11 percent it had in 2010.The US saw its share slip from 39.4 percent in 2010 to 35 percent in 2014.

According to reports, the government received the study nine months ago but only released it last week.

Speaking on Thursday at the annual conference of the Higher Education Funding Council for England, Jo Johnson, Britain's universities minister, said the study shows the UK is a strong performer as a research nation, despite having less than 1 percent of the world's population.

"It goes without saying that UK universities are renowned for the quality of their research," Johnson said. "The government is publishing analysis by Elsevier that shows that the UK continues to punch above its weight as a research superpower."

In 2014, the UK accounted for 15.2 percent of the world’s most heavily cited articles, while China produced 19.6 percent.

The report said: "The global research landscape in recent years has become increasingly complex and fluid, and it can only become more so as emerging research nations grow their research bases."

Authors said the UK and other research-intensive nations are seeing their global shares in key research indicators eroded by emerging countries, "especially by China".

"As China and other rising research nations succeed in their desire to emulate and even surpass the research performance of countries like the US and the UK, their shares will naturally become larger while the erstwhile powerhouses see theirs shrink," the report said.

The UK's gross domestic expenditure on research and development increased from to $38.2 billion in 2010 to $41.6 billion in 2014 at an annual growth rate of 2.2 percent. China spent $344.7 billion on research and development in 2014, up from $213.5 billion in 2010, an annual growth rate of 12.7 percent.

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