Measuring National-level Research Production under Fractional Counting: China versus the U.S.

  • 04 29, 2023
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  • Author:Yuanjie Xu, Jianpin Li, Dengsheng Wu


This paper aims to examine the heterogeneity of research production between China and the United States by disaggregating the national research production into its constituent components. Different from previous studies, we introduce the share counting method to determine the number of publications attributed to each country. We analyse bibliographic metadata from over 36 million SCI/SSCI-indexed journal publications published in the period from 2000 to 2021. The research production of China and the United States is decomposed according to the document types, disciplines, and high-impact journals. In the quantitative analysis, the first finding is that China emerged as the world's largest contributor to SCIindexed publications in 2019 under fractional counting, two years earlier than under whole counting. Surpassing the U.S. in publication count does not indicate a completely surpassing position for China in its scientific production strength, however. When it is divided by document types, China has published a smaller proportion of review-type journal publications than the U.S.; when filtered by disciplines, in the period from 2016 to 2021, China’s research production leads in only 100 of 178 natural science fields and 2 of 58 social science fields. The second finding is, when only the number of papers on high-impact journals is considered, China also surpassed the U.S. in 2019; meanwhile, the proportion of high-impact journal papers of China is still lower than that of the U.S. These results reveal that there are different knowledge production patterns in China and the United States. This study contributes to a better understanding of the disparities in research productivity between the top two nations, and suggests several policy implications for China.

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