The state of Chinese research — a new white paper from Springer Nature

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China - an emerging research leader

Last week, publishing giant Springer Nature‘s China team released an excellent white paper on research in China, Turning Point: Chinese Science in Transition. China is a major player in research, having spent 1.3 trillion renminbi in 2014 (second only to the US), producing 245,000 SCI publications (also 2nd to the US). The piece is based on a large survey of almost 1,700 Chinese researchers, supplemented by some in-depth interviews. It covers the entire life cycle of research: funding science, doing science, and sharing science, providing key recommendations to improve the experience for researchers in China (3.9 million in science and tech fields alone). Here are a few things that stood out in the white paper, but please take the time to read the full document:

  • Many of the issues faced by Chinese researchers sound very similar to those I saw and experienced in my time in the lab in the US:
    • Extensive admin time preventing a focus on mentoring, performing and planning research
    • Need for more basic research (it’s only 5% of China’s R&D budget)
    • Desire for additional training in writing grants and managing grant money and personnel
  • Chinese researchers reported a positive impression with the revamped grant award process, which now relies much more on merit (and less on who you know). They expressed concern, however, about personnel caps and spending limits that make it necessary to apply continuously for grants, while at the same time spending most of that money on reagents and equipment, not people to perform research. They also noted that customs regulations in China can make it difficult to collaborate internationally — materials and documents can be held up for months at a time.
  • Most telling for us here at Research Square, Chinese researchers do not see any incentive for sharing their work after publication, as the current incentives are based around authorship and the Impact Factor of the journal where a paper is published. They also report poor experiences with language editing services, with only 25% of Chinese PIs saying that they want to continue using such services. Legitimate editing companies (of which there are many) will need to work with the Chinese government to establish their reputation and gain approval. This will allow Chinese researchers to continue focusing on their research and not on polishing the language of their research manuscripts.

China will continue to be an important source of research in the future, likely surpassing the US soon. As such, it is critical that we consider how we can better integrate Chinese researchers and papers into the global conversation. Doing so will benefit all of us who support the communication of research.

The Author

Global Communications Manager at AJE/Research Square