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Nature Index: over 50% of China’s high-quality research involves international co-authors

May 25, 2017, Shanghai

The Nature Index 2017 China supplement, published today, reveals that as China’s total number of articles included in the Nature Index increased since 2012, the percentage of articles with international co-authors has continued to rise year-on-year. By 2016, papers with international co-authors comprised more than 50% of the country’s articles in the index.


In 2016, the Institute of High Energy Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and the National Institute for Nuclear Physics in Italy formed the strongest bilateral collaboration between a Chinese institution and an international institution, followed by Peking University and Harvard University. Out of the top 10 international bilateral collaborations in China, the Germany-based Max Planck Society participated in five.

However, the depth of collaborations between institutions domestically remains far greater than internationally. There are 56 such partnerships between Chinese institutions that are stronger than the leading global pairing.

In terms of China’s inter-city collaborations, as well as institutions in Beijing having the highest contribution to the index overall, last year they formed the largest number of partnerships across China. Beijing was followed by Shanghai and Nanjing in this respect. But beyond these metropolises, institutions in smaller cities have expertise that makes them strong collaborators in their own right.

For instance, Kunming, well-known for its unique biodiversity, is a boon for scientists interested in studying plants and ecology. Whereas Changchun in China’s northeast has a long history specialising in chemistry research. Last year institutions in Kunming formed 190 domestic research partnerships with other Chinese institutions to co-author papers included in the index, ranking 16th of the 184 Chinese cities examined by the index. More than two-thirds of Kunming’s output on the Nature Index is the field of chemistry, with many articles investigating the chemical structures and processes of plants. Changchun’s strongest partnership last year was between Changchun Institute of Applied Chemistry (CIAC) and University of Chinese Academy of Sciences (UCAS) in Beijing, both part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

For the first time, the Nature Index China supplement took a look at China’s performance beyond the 68 journals tracked by the index and expanded into the larger Web of Science database, from Clarivate Analytics. “This helps our readers and index users gain a broad picture of China’s research output overall and in some specific fields. By making comparisons, they can find some interesting facts to better understand the trend,” said David Swinbanks, Founder of the Nature Index.

As indicated by the Nature Index, international papers make up a significant portion of China’s high-quality research, but this level of international co-authorship does not extend to all papers published in China. The country’s share of articles with international co-authors indexed in the Web of Science remains below 25%. “The slower growth rate in papers from international collaborations was because China’s overall research output had grown so dramatically,” said Dr. Yue Weiping, Chief Scientist of China for Clarivate Analytics. “This slower rate may be attributed to language barriers and allocation of institutional resources. Researchers in top universities have more opportunities or resources to collaborate with peers worldwide.” Yet there are signs that this overall rate of international collaboration will rise over the next decade, due to government policies – such as the national World-Class 2.0 project – aimed at making  Chinese research more global, including generous funding schemes to promote collaboration.

More information about the Nature Index is available at natureindex.com.

Notes to editors:

About the Nature Index

First launched in November 2014, the Nature Index database tracks the author affiliations of research articles published in a group of 68 high-quality natural science journals, which have been selected by independent panels of active scientists.

Responses from over 2,800 individuals to a large scale survey were used to validate the selections. Springer Nature estimates that these 68 journals account for nearly 30% of total citations to natural science journals.

A rolling 12-month window of Nature Index data is made available openly under a Creative Commons license at natureindex.com, allowing users to analyse research outputs from, and collaboration among, 8,000 institutions and 150 countries. On the index website, an institution's output of articles organised by broad subject area can be viewed across the most recent 12 month period. International and domestic collaborations are shown for each institution. The website also presents annual league tables of institutions and countries going back to 2012. Upon free registration of the website, users are able to plot longitudinal trends in output for institutions and countries, and export raw data for further analysis.

The Nature Index uses four counts of article output:

• Article count (AC) - A country or institution is given an AC of 1 for each article that has at least one author from that country or institution. This is the case whether an article has one or a hundred authors, and it means that the same article can contribute to the AC of multiple countries or institutions.

• Fractional Count (FC) - FC takes into account the relative contribution of each author to an article. The maximum FC per paper is 1, and this is shared between all authors under the assumption that each contributed equally. For instance, each author on a paper with 10 authors would receive a FC of 0.1.

• Weighted Fractional Count (WFC) - applies a weighting to FC to adjust for an overrepresentation of papers from astronomy and astrophysics. The four journals in these disciplines publish about 50% of all papers in international journals in this field — approximately five times the equivalent figures for other fields. Therefore, although the data for astronomy and astrophysics are compiled in exactly the same way as for all other disciplines, articles from these journals are assigned one-fifth the weight of other articles.

• Collaboration score (CS) - The collaborative effort between two institutions, or two countries, is known as a bilateral collaboration score. This is the sum of the FCs from papers with authors from both institutions. The collaborative effort of an individual institution is measured by an average collaboration score. This is the average of the FCs for all the bilateral relationships for that institution. If institution A has relationships with two others, B and C, then the collaboration score is average of the FC for A + B and A + C.

To keep informed of Nature Index updates and other news, please sign up for weekly email updates here.

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Clarivate Analytics
Clarivate™ Analytics accelerates the pace of innovation by providing trusted insights and analytics to customers around the world, enabling them to discover, protect and commercialize new ideas faster. Formerly the Intellectual Property and Science business of Thomson Reuters, we own and operate a collection of leading subscription-based businesses focused on scientific and academic research, patent analytics and regulatory standards, pharmaceutical and biotech intelligence, trademark protection, domain brand protection and intellectual property management. Clarivate™ Analytics is now an independent company with over 4,000 employees, operating in more than 100 countries and owns well‐known brands that include Web of Science™, Cortellis™, Derwent, CompuMark™, MarkMonitor® and Techstreet™, among others. For more information, please visit clarivate.com.

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