China is quickly outpacing the United States and Europe in terms of scientific studies and publications and could far exceed Western publications by 2025.
While 2017 Nature Index, which measures how often countries and institutions contribute to the world’s 82 most prestigious natural science publications, found that between 2014 and last year the U.S. continued to publish more than twice as much as China and three times as many as Germany and the U.K..
However, according to Cosmos Magazine, the index also indicates during that time the number of Chinese studies published is rising year over year, while the U.S. is simultaneously in decline. If these opposing trends continue China will outpace the U.S. in seven years.
During the Cold War and after the U.S. poured funding into scientific research, science financing increased 15 fold - from US$265 million in 1953 to US$35 billion by 2015.
Since 2007, U.S. private and government institutions have seen the trend coming, and began to invest and encourage STEM education. However, according to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), China’s stance on science and its increasingly growing economy are enabling the country to advance in the area of prestigious science publications.
PNAS says there are several reasons for China’s science expansion. First China pays its scientists better than the U.S., and are able to attract those seeking better wages. In 2010, 44 percent of higher education students in China were majoring in science or engineering, compared with only 16 percent in the United States.
China is also concertedly recruiting Chinese scientists who are living abroad to return home. In 2008, the Chinese government launched the Recruitment Program of Global Experts designed to pry outstanding Chinese academics away from their positions at high-tier foreign research institutions. They were enticed by lucrative salaries and start-up bonuses by the Chinese government and several Chinese-American scientists returned home.
The Chinese government is increasing investments in science. Since 1999 China has made significant investments in science higher education. Also, the government upped its investment in research and development from 0.7 percent in 1991 to 2.4 percent by 2016. Inversely the U.S. has increased science investment from 2.4 percent to 2.9 percent between 1991 and 2016.
Lastly, PNAS says these factors plus China’s significant increase in population have facilitated its ability to produce more scientists and more publications.
According to a 2018 Nature Index, every top 10 country producer of Earth and environmental science research has declined in output over the past several years, except China, which is producing more.