Science in China: Boosting quality over quantity
Commentary in this week’s Nature
July 27, 2011Published: July 27, 2011
By Steven T. Corneliussen
A Nature commentary this week notes that according to the Royal Society, “China now publishes the second highest number of scientific papers” in the world and by 2020 could become the “dominant producer of scientific research.” Accordingly “the time has come,” writes the author, Changhui Peng, for China “to consider how best to boost the quality ... of its scientific output.”
Nature names two affiliations for the author: the College of Forestry of Northwest A&F University, Yangling, China, and the Institute of Environmental Sciences of the University of Quebec at Montreal. His commentary suggests that low citation numbers prove the low quality of the output. He offers approaches for improvement.
Because “Chinese scientists have not systematically released data or research findings, even after publication,” and because wide “distribution of information is key to scientific progress,” Peng recommends better, more transparent data sharing. He calls for China to “do more to monitor and punish widespread academic misconduct, including plagiarism, which occurs as a consequence of the emphasis placed on publishing large numbers of papers.”
Peng declares that for China to become a “scientific superpower,” it “must encourage its scientists to play a more prominent part” in engaging “complex and interrelated global issues” such as “climate change, Earth-systems modeling, carbon-capture technologies, biodiversity and resource security.”
In a recommendation that will resonate at the American Institute of Physics (the publisher of Physics Today) which opened its first international office in Beijing last year, Peng also advocates more international collaboration. He is encouraged that “China is beginning to open up” and that the “Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology has signed treaties for scientific and technological cooperation with more than 100 countries.”
Steven T. Corneliussen, a media analyst for the American Institute of Physics, monitors three national newspapers, the weeklies Nature and Science, and occasionally other publications. His reports to AIP are published in "Science and the media." He has published op-eds in the Washington Post and other newspapers, has written for NASA's history program, and is a science writer at a particle-accelerator laboratory.