For years we were warned that American students trailed other nations’ in math and science — now the chickens have come home to roost. The BBC reports that in 2013 China will pass the United States as the global leader in scientific output. But can scientific progress really be measured? And, must it be viewed as a battle between nations? This issue may be as much about Western fears as anything else:
The country that invented the compass, gunpowder, paper and printing is set for a globally important comeback. China is on course to overtake the US in scientific output possibly as soon as 2013 – far earlier than expected.
That is the conclusion of a major new study by the Royal Society, the UK’s national science academy. The study, Knowledge, Networks and Nations, charts the challenge to the traditional dominance of the United States, Europe and Japan. The figures are based on the papers published in recognized international journals listed by the Scopus service of the publishers Elsevier.
In 1996, the first year of the analysis, the US published 292,513 papers – more than 10 times China’s 25,474. By 2008, the US total had increased very slightly to 316,317 while China’s had surged more than seven-fold to 184,080. After displacing the UK as the world’s second leading producer of research, [China] could go on to overtake America in as little as two years’ time.