How China is improving its scientific capabilities?

Reinhilde Veugelers of Bruegel has this nice paper on the topic. She discusses the growing China power from an EU angle.

She says the science world is moving towards a G-2 system with US and China as the two members. EU needs to work and catch up:

Both the European Union and the United States must adapt to the scientific surge from China and other emerging nations. In the US, decision makers fear that their open model for building scientific power, based to a great extent on recruiting talent from abroad, has passed its peak. But for the moment the US-China connection is still strong, growing, virtuous and mutually beneficial. In fact, the emerging multipolar science world looks set to be dominated by a US-China G2. With its more inward-looking perspective, the EU needs to do more than focus on internal integration. The European Research Area programme provides the framework for a European policy agenda, but this should place much greater and more urgent emphasis on building excellence and openness to researchers and their institutions from outside the EU.

Some aspects of China’s surge. So far it is mainly in the volumes game but is catching up on quality as well: 

China has doubled its output since 2004 and now publishes more than any other country apart from the US (Figure 1). Publication frequency has also risen in other emerging nations such as Brazil, South Korea and Turkey. By contrast, the quantitative performances of  India and Russia have stagnated or declined.

China’s research priorities are shown by a big jump in its share of world publications in engineering (from three percent in 1995 to 13 percent in 2007), chemistry (three to 15 percent), and physics (four to 13 percent). India and South Korea are also notable for increasing volumes of  engineering articles. However, in life sciences China is still weak. For the moment, the EU and the US are holding on to their predominant role in this area (Table 1).

Quality of research is another matter of course. In terms of research impact, measured by the number of times scientific publications are cited, the US’s dominant position is less contested  (Table 2). At the top of the quality distribution, more than half of cited articles continue tooriginate from the US. This position is only slightly eroding, with the EU catch ing up in the top segment (whereas in quantity terms it has outperformed the US since 1994). China and other Asian countries are for now only very modestly making inroads into the top segment. However, in specific fields, engineering being the prime example, the top segment is also contested. China and other Asian countries are already having a significant impact on this discipline, and the gap between China/Asia and the EU/US is closing fast.

This is backed by increase in Chinese expenditure on R&D:

The rise in the scientific output of Asia, particularly China, correlates with substantial investment by these countries in building up their scientific and technological capacities (Figure 2, panel A, on the next page). South Korean R&D spending has increased steeply, and China’s R&D/GDP ratio has more than doubled, from 0.6 percent in 1996 to 1.5 percent in 2007, a period during which China’s GDP grew at 12 percent annually – an enormous, sustained increase. China plans a 2.2 percent R&D/GDP ratio for 2011- 15. By comparison, although it has a three percent research spending target, the EU continues to hover below two percent.

Above all China’s work force in science is increasing rapidly:

China has more than doubled its research workforce, boosting its world share from 13 percent to 25 percent between 1995-2007. It now has as many researchers in its workforce as the EU and US: about 1.4 million. the number of first university degrees awarded in these fields in China has risen spectacularly from about 239,000 in 1998 to 807,000 in 2006. The trend is also seen in the award of PhD degrees in China, where natural sciences and engineering doctorates increased more than tenfold up to 2006, close to the number awarded in the US (about 21,000). In the EU there has been little increase in the number of doctorates. It is also worth noting that, in the US, 31 percent of doctorates are awarded to students from China, 14 percent to students from India, and seven percent to students from South Korea.

The Chinese programme of building indigenous scientific capacity concentrates on the top end. Of the 1700 Chinese chartered institutes of higher education, six percent are so-called ‘Project 211’ national key universities and colleges. These receive 70 percent of scientific research funding, and award degrees to about a third of all Chinese undergraduate students, two-thirds of graduate students and four-fifths of doctoral students. Within the Project 211 group, Tsinghua and Beijing   Universities are on the way to being among the world’s elite universities. Both are already listed among the top 200 in the Shanghai Ranking of Research Universities. 

The article then discusses how US open system of inviting foreign researchers is helping US. Even if they go back to home countries, there are many more to join. Same is not the case with EU. And the author discusses what EU could do to improve things in sciences.

Science is critical to economic progress which is just stating the obvious.

I am not saying anything wrt India on this. There is nothing to say really.

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