Secrecy News

The Structure of Chinese Science and Technology

The People’s Republic of China is making significant strides in science and technology areas related to national security and commercial enterprise, according to a new “bibliometric” study of Chinese scientific publications (pdf) performed by the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research.

“China’s output of research articles has expanded dramatically in the last decade. In terms of sheer numbers of research articles, especially in critical technologies (e.g., nanotechnology, energetic materials), it is among the leaders,” according to the study.

“In terms of investment strategy relative to that of the USA, China is investing more heavily in the hard science areas that underpin modern defense and commercial activities, whereas the USA is investing more heavily in the medical, psychological, and social problem (e.g., drug use) science areas that underpin improvement of individual health and comfort,” the authors said.

The 500 page study proceeds from a series of straightforward observations and analyses to several increasingly dense methodological appendices that are unintelligible to non-specialists.

A copy of the study was obtained by Secrecy News.

See “The Structure and Infrastructure of Chinese Science and Technology” by Ronald N. Kostoff, Office of Naval Research, et al, 2006 (3.9 MB PDF file).

0 thoughts on “The Structure of Chinese Science and Technology

  1. I’m a lawyer, not a scientist, so please bear with me. How direct is the correlation between the quantity of research articles published by a particular country and quality of that country’s research? Doesn’t the place of publication matter? What about the recent stories on China academia’s huge problem with plagiarism? How significant is that and should that lead to a discounting of China’s research paper numbers?

    China Lawyer

    [Good questions. I don’t think there is a direct correlation between quantity and quality of research. See pp. 58-59 of the ONR study for an acknowledgment of this open question. And yes, place of publication does matter. –SA]

  2. In response to China Lawyer, he is correct in principle. Numbers tell only part of the story. I address the quality issue in the China report. More needs to be done to assess quality.

    However, I would not discount the large numbers of Chinese scientists and engineers trained in critical science and technology fields, as evidenced by the sheer numbers and topics of articles. At some point in the near future, the quality of these papers will approach the quality of the Western nations. Given the exponential growth rate shown by Chinese research output, it is only a matter of time.

    Soon after completing the China study, I completed a similar study of India (pdf). Since much of the India study included comparisons with China, and some novel techniques were first reported in the India study, additional insights on China were obtained from the India study. I am enclosing the announcement letter that was distributed with the report. This letter serves as the Executive Summary of the India report.


    FROM: Dr. Ronald N. Kostoff (ONR)

    TO: Asian Research Distribution

    SUBJ: India Science and Technology Assessment Report

    A report on the structure and infrastructure of Indian science and technology (1) is attached in PDF. This report includes a number of comparisons with China additional to those contained in the recent China science and technology assessment report (2), and the present report should be considered complementary to the China report. Highlights of the India report include:

    From 1980 to 2005, India’s output of Science Citation Index/ Social Science Citation Index (SCI/ SSCI) research articles increased from ~10000 to ~25000 annually, with half this increase occurring in the past five years. In the same period, China’s output increased by two orders of magnitude (from ~700 to ~72000 SCI/ SSCI articles annually), forty times India’s increased output!

    Of the top 21 journals in which Indian authors publish, the median initial journal access date in the SCI/ SSCI (the initial date of SCI/ SSCI publication of articles from that journal) was 1970. Of the top 20 journals in which Chinese authors publish, the median initial publication date in the SCI/ SSCI was 1995 (with the more recently accessed journals having relatively low Impact Factors [measures of a journal’s ability to attract citations]). Thus, at least some of the excess growth of China’s research publications relative to India must have come from additional journals being accessed by the SCI/ SSCI, rather than purely increased productivity or increased research sponsorship.

    Based on a limited sample of high Impact Factor journals, both India and China are increasing their growth of research articles in highly cited journals greater than their overall increase in growth of research articles. India’s relative increase is modest, whereas China’s increase is strong. For both countries, much of the increase in overall research article growth comes from increasing production of articles in low Impact Factor domestic and international journals. Also, for both countries, there is increased production in high Impact Factor journals as well. The increase in high Impact Factor journals outpaces the increase in overall research article production, but the high Impact Factor journal production is a relatively small fraction of the overall research article production.

    The journals containing the largest number of India and China articles were identified. For India, the highest ranking journals emphasize chemistry, veterinary, agriculture, and physics, in that order. For China, the order is physics, materials, chemistry, showing a definite difference in emphases. The only journal common to both lists is Acta Crystallographica. For India and China, half the top journals in each case are domestic. In both cases, the journal Impact Factors are relatively low. In comparison, for the USA, the Impact Factors of the journals containing the most USA-authored papers are an order of magnitude greater than those of India or China.

    Collaboration with other countries has the effect of dramatically increasing the presence of papers with Indian authors in the higher Impact Factor journals. Additionally, the median citations of the top ten cited articles published in the 1995-1999 time frame increased from 210 to 453 with the addition of collaboration, while there was no change with collaboration in the median citations of all articles retrieved [2]. Thus, collaboration has a dramatic effect on production of high-end articles. The main collaboration areas with the USA are biomedical and nanotechnology, based on phrase frequency analysis.

    In contrast to journals containing most country papers (where only one journal was in common between India and China), there are fifteen journals in common out of the twenty most highly cited journals for India and China. The Impact Factors for these most cited journals are an order of magnitude higher than the Impact Factors of the journals that contain the most India or China papers. Thus, Indian and Chinese authors are citing the high Impact Factor journals extensively, but not publishing in them extensively. Both Indian and Chinese authors are increasing their presence in these high Impact Factor journals, but they are presently over-concentrated in the lower Impact Factor journals.

    Two Indian institutions stand out in terms of research article productivity: Indian Institute of Technology (actually, six IITs in India) and Indian Institute of Science.

    Auto-Correlation Mapping and factor analysis showed five major publishing groups among the thirty most prolific institutions:

    University of Madras strongly linked to Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, and weakly linked to Anna University, Punjab University, Tata IFR, and Chinese Academy of Science.
    Punjab University strongly linked to Tata IFR and Chinese Academy of Science, and weakly linked to University of Delhi.
    University of Calcutta strongly linked to Jadavpur University, Saha INP, and Indian Statistical Institute, and weakly linked to Indian Association of Cultivation Science.
    Indian Institute of Technology with very weak links to National Institute of Technology, University of Calcutta, Indira Ghandi ACR, and University of Madras.
    Bhabha ARC strongly linked to Banaras Hindu University and Indira Ghandi CAR, and weakly linked to Annamalai University.

    Cross-Correlation Mapping showed relations among these institutions based on use of common terminology (i.e., common research interests). A central bi-polar core of Indian institutional research based on common terminology, centered about the major institutions Indian Institute of Science (basic research) and Indian Institute of Technology (applied research) emerged that was not evident from the Auto-Correlation Map of institutional publishing groups.

    China’s research impact was larger than India’s in all major research categories (Physical/ Environmental/ Materials/ Life Sciences, as measured by median of top ten cited articles in each sub-area, for technical sub-areas of similar research output).

    India’s research output emphases are presented in four technical areas:

    Biological Research (2626 articles)
    Clinical Medicine/ Environmental Research (2887)
    Mathematics (3691)
    Physical Sciences (5104)



    1. Kostoff RN, Johnson D, Bowles CA, Dodbele S. Assessment of India’s research literature. DTIC Technical Report ADA444625 ( Defense Technical Information Center. Fort Belvoir, VA. 2006.

    2. Kostoff RN, Briggs, MB, Rushenberg, RL, Bowles, CA, Pecht, M. The structure and infrastructure of Chinese science and technology. DTIC Technical Report ADA443315 ( Defense Technical Information Center. Fort Belvoir, VA. 2006. A downloadable version of the report’s final draft is available at

    Go to ninth report listed. Click on PDF version.

    3. The views in this report are solely those of the authors, and do not represent the views of the Department of the Navy or any of its components, DDL-OMNI Engineering, LLC, or Northrop Grumman.

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