According to Nature, China has doubled its impact in top research journals. Should we take this as a clear sign that the quality of the Chinese scientific production is on the rise?
A closer look – the devil is always in the details – provides a slightly different perspective. “Chinese papers” are defined as “primary research papers for which the corresponding author and more than 50% of the authors are based in mainland China and published in the five top research journals — Nature, Science, Cell, Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine“. The statistics show that in 2008 the number of papers “China” had in these top journals was 21. One year later the number had increased to 41.
So, the short answer is yes, China did almost double the number of papers published. The long answer though is that it is too soon to judge: the name of the game in science today isn’t really how much one publishes but instead how much one is cited — citation analysis or bibliometrics — a much better indicator of the quality of a scientific article.
The real problem with measuring the impact of Chinese scientific production is actually elsewhere: the Chinese Science Citation Database (CSCD) — 2 million entries and 200’000 added every year — [only] has the abstract in English, probably reducing vastly the citation of Chinese papers outside of China.