The United States of America and the People’s Republic of China are two of the most powerful countries in the world (depending on which markers you use, of course). Not only are they leading when it comes to their economies, with the United States currently being the first and China second, they are also among the leading nations when it comes to science.
However, the States may soon be overtaken by China, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) 2015 Science, Technology and Industry Scoreboard report.
A common indication of scientific excellence is the number of studies referenced by other researchers. Such a measurement was used by the report. It then breaks the data down into 27 fields, revealing which countries have the largest share of the top 10% most-cited articles in each field.
Between 2003 and 2012, US researchers led all 27 disciplines with more articles in the top 10% than any other country. However, China placed a close second in 8 of the disciplines.
Although the total number of American scientific publications increased by half between 2003 and 2012, they quadrupled in China, and the number of scientific articles among the top 10% cited in their field is also catching up.
In the end, China claimed over 37,000 while US scientists had 102,000 in 2012.
There may be several reasons behind China’s rising worldwide recognition in science. As the OECD report shows, more scientists have moved to China in the past few years, while more are leaving the US. Moreover, although more students overall receive doctorates in the US, China now awards more doctorates in the sciences, 27,000 versus the US’s 24,000.
Despite the two countries being the top supporters of research and development in 2013, with the US having spent more than China ($433 billion versus $318 billion), China’s government spends a larger portion of its GDP on research and development than the US does. By 2013, foreign investments in China ($350 billion) surpassed those made in the US ($300 billion).
According to the report, eight fields that China could dominate include materials science, engineering, mathematics, decision science, chemistry, energy, chemical engineering, and computer science.