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Scientific research in the People’s Republic of China has shown ‘extraordinary growth’ during the past 20 years in both productivity and worldwide influence, according to ISI, the US-based company that monitors scientific publications.

The number of research papers by Chinese authors appearing in the journals indexed by ISI increased 15-fold between 1981 and 2000, from 1,646 to 24,923 papers per year. And the impact of the research – measured by the number of references to Chinese papers in other papers in the same journals – also increased significantly.

In 1981, the average citations-per paper for Chinese research papers was only 37 per cent of the world average. By 2000, this had risen to 47 per cent of the average. ISI describes China’s increased impact as “impressive given the significant increase in papers over the same time period”.