Although the number of papers published by Chinese scientists continues to grow, this research is rarely cited in later studies, suggesting that it lacks innovation, according to a study by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).
Zheng Ying, a researcher at the academy's Chengdu Library who co-authored the study, told SciDev.Net that this trend is unlikely to change in the short term.
The study, published on the CAS website on 23 November, shows that, globally, only eight countries published more scientific papers than China between 1994 and 2004.
China ranked 18th in the total number of times its papers were cited by other researchers. But in terms of the average citation rate of each paper, China ranked 124th in the world.
"The research shows that although we have made great progress in science and technology, many studies replicate foreign research and lack true innovation," Zheng says.
She adds that this is partly due to the way science is evaluated in China, where the number of papers a researcher has published is more important than their quality or citation rate.
A 2004 study by Zhou Ping of the Institute of Science and Technology Information of China suggested other reasons for the low citation rate.
For instance, most Chinese research is not published in English, and Chinese researchers often publish their work in journals that are not included in Western indexes of publications such as the Science Citation Index.