The previous post, “Nanotechnology research papers: The world’s most prolific authors”, had statistics that suggested (but didn’t directly indicate) a large global role for nanotechnology research in China. This was discussed in the comments, where Patrick, in particular, noted some of the relevant questions and difficulties with the analytical categories.
I pointed to a source that addresses the topic more directly, and Patrick pointed to another. Regarding the first:
Questions of quantity and quality are addressed in a 2006 paper, “The Emergence of China as a Leading Nation in Science” [pdf], which is more strongly focused on nanotechnology than the title would suggest. (Note: the paper has one Chinese and one EU author.) To quote from the abstract:
China has become the fifth leading nation in terms of its share of the world’s scientific publications. The citation rate of papers with a Chinese address for the corresponding author also exhibits exponential growth. More specifically, China has become a major player in critical technologies like nanotechnology. Although it is difficult to delineate nanoscience and nanotechnology, we show that China has recently achieved a position second only to that of the USA.
Patrick pointed to an a set of ongoing research projects at the Center for Nanotechnology in Society at UC Santa Barbara. From the web page:
Chinese Nanotechnology Publications
China’s top-down and government-centered approach toward science and technology policy is succeeding in driving academic-publications output. By 2005 China had equaled or possibly surpassed the U.S. in terms of total output for academic/peer-reviewed publications, with a substantial increase in publication rate from around 2003. While others have illustrated that numbers do not translate into high impact, Esther Levy — editor of the journal Advanced Materials — indicated in an interview at the IMMA meeting at Fudan University (Shanghai) that the level of Chinese scholarship was improving, attributable in part to international collaborations as well as to the growing number of returning overseas Chinese. We examined US and Chinese nanotechnology trends in the scientific literature and found that Chinese nanotechnology output is growing rapidly and will likely US output in terms of quality as well as quantity within a decade or less (Appelbaum & Parker 2008).
“Nanotechnology”, of course, comprises a vast network of loosely affiliated fields of research. In exploring the literature on topics relevant to my studies, I’ve found that the field of nanoparticle synthesis, in particular, has a very large proportion of papers from China, including some that strike me as among the most innovative and important.