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

London, 13 December 2018

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.

About Nature Index

First launched in November 2014, the Nature Index database tracks the author affiliations of research articles published in a group of 82 high-quality natural science journals, increasing from 68 in June 2018. 

The selection process for the current list of journals was led by two independent panels of active scientists in the life and physical sciences. Journal selections were validated using more than 6,600 responses from researchers to an email survey, which asked "Where would you most like to publish your best research?” 

A rolling 12-month window of Nature Index data is made available openly under a Creative Commons license at natureindex.com, allowing users to analyse research outputs from, and collaboration among, more than 9,000 institutions and 150 countries. On the index website, an institution's article output is organised by broad subject area and can be viewed across the most recent 12-month period. International and domestic collaborations are shown for each institution.

The Nature Index website also presents annual league tables of institutions and countries going back to 2015. Upon free registration on the website, users are able to plot longitudinal trends in output for institutions and countries, and export raw data for further analysis.

 The Nature Index uses two counts of article output:

_Article count (AC) - A country or institution is given an AC of 1 for each article that has at least one author from that country or institution. This is the case whether an article has one or a hundred authors, and it means that the same article can contribute to the AC of multiple countries or institutions.

_Fractional Count (FC) - FC takes into account the relative contribution of each author to an article. The maximum FC per paper is 1, and this is shared between all authors under the assumption that each contributed equally. For instance, each author on a paper with 10 authors would receive a FC of 0.1.

Each year the Nature Index releases its annual tables. These show calendar year output in Nature Index journals, and reveal the countries, institutions and companies that are leading the way in publishing high-quality global science.

Nature Index supplements are curated by a dedicated team of editors and provide analysis and commentary around the most recent data, including organisational and country-level profiles, as well as areas such as collaboration, innovation and corporate research. These supplements also include additional information from other data sources, such as demographics, national spending on research and development, and changes to science policy and funding, that help to put the Nature Index data into context.

About Nature Research

Nature Research is a portfolio of high-quality products and services across the life, physical, chemical and applied sciences – including journals, databases and researcher services – dedicated to serving the scientific community.

Nature (founded in 1869) is the leading, international weekly journal of science. Nature Research also publishes a range of Nature branded subscription journals, the leading open access multidisciplinary journal Nature Communications, other open access journals including Scientific Reports, and a range of Nature Partner Journals published in partnership with institutions and societies. Together, these journals publish some of the world's most significant scientific discoveries.

Online, nature.com provides over nine million unique visitors per month with Nature Research content, including news and comment from Nature, and the leading scientific jobs board, Naturejobs. Nature Research also offers a range of researcher services, including online and in-person training and expert language and editing services. For more information, please visit nature.com and follow @nresearchnews. Nature Research is part of Springer Nature.

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