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[BEIJING] China overtook Japan and the United Kingdom to become the world's second largest producer of scientific research papers in 2006, second only the United States.

The Institute of Science and Technology Information of China (ISTIC) released their annual science and technology (S&T) paper statistics yesterday (15 November).

Chinese scientists published 172,000 papers in major international journals and meetings in 2006, accounting for 8.4 per cent of the world's total.

"The situation represents the rapid increase in S&T [activity]," said Wu Yishan, general engineer of ISTIC, at the conference.

Cited papers first-authored by Chinese scientists — an important indicator of scientific creativity — increased by 25.3 per cent in 2006, and the number of times they were cited increased 28.3 per cent. However, China remains thirteenth in terms of total citation numbers.

The ISTIC statistics show that among China's papers indexed by the Science Citation Index, the percentage of international co-authored papers decreased by three per cent.

"These [increased citations and reduced co-authorship] might represent the improved independent innovation capacity of Chinese scientists," said Wu.

Chinese papers published in international academic meetings increased by 15.8 per cent in 2006, despite the world's total decreasing by nine per cent during that same period. This suggests that Chinese scientists are increasingly cooperating with foreign scientists.

"[More meeting proceedings] indicate Chinese scientists are more involved in international academic exchanges," says Wu.

Yan Jingxia, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Science and Technology Journal Research, says that while increased S&T activity is the basic factor in stimulating publication of papers, increasing the chances of research papers being cited with better designed keywords and citing more studies in high profile topics also helps.

"In a sense, these skills represent that Chinese scientists have been better engaged in the international academic circles," he told SciDev.Net.