China's scientific output is increasing in line with its rapid economic growth. But while some fields of study are growing others are lagging behind. According to Science Watch, which tracks trends in publishing, the number of Chinese publications in international journals increased 20-fold between 1981 and 2003.
While five per cent of all science publications now come from China, the figure is higher for materials science (ten per cent) and mathematics and physics (both eight per cent). But China still lags behind in the life sciences, producing just 0.8 per cent of immunology papers and two per cent of publications in plant sciences.
Chinese papers published in certain fields, including physics, chemistry and geosciences, still have low average 'impact factors' — a measure of their influence on research done elsewhere in the same field. One Chinese researcher suggests his compatriots have strong technical and analytical skills but may be weaker at interpreting findings.
Reference: Nature 431, 116 (2004)