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China To Overtake US In Science In Two Years 362

Posted by Soulskill
from the hmm-right-after-the-election dept.
An anonymous reader writes "China is set to overtake America in scientific output as soon as 2013 — far earlier than expected. Chinese research spending has grown by 20% per year since 1999, now reaching over $100bn, and as many as 1.5 million science and engineering students graduated from Chinese universities in 2006. 'I think this is positive, of great benefit, though some might see it as a threat and it does serve as a wake-up call for us not to become complacent,' said Professor Sir Chris Llewellyn Smith. However, the report points out that a growing volume of research publications does not necessarily mean an increase in quality."
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China To Overtake US In Science In Two Years

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 28, 2011 @10:16PM (#35647612)

    Is there some way to objectively measure it? Number of patents, number of papers, what?

    • by user32.ExitWindowsEx (250475) on Monday March 28, 2011 @10:22PM (#35647674)

      "China is set to overtake America in scientific output as soon as 2013" sounds like something that would bubble up in a Civ 4 or 5 game.

      • by Hojima (1228978)

        It's usually measured by Libraries of Congress of peer-review journals or metric fucktonnes of Graduate student brains, but at the rate we're going, we'll be using the Bricks shit per American.

    • by iamhassi (659463)
      Don't worry about it, we have this kid [slashdot.org]

      But China does have cooler model trains than we do [bbc.co.uk]
    • by Lemmy Caution (8378) on Monday March 28, 2011 @10:24PM (#35647704) Homepage

      It's measured in the ability to RTFM, which Chinese scientists seems to excel at:

      "The figures are based on the papers published in recognised international journals listed by the Scopus service of the publishers Elsevier."

      • by joocemann (1273720) on Monday March 28, 2011 @11:10PM (#35648092)

        China also is notorious for science fraud. From my observation, which can be summed up as a 'scientist browsing and delving into various pubs regularly', when there's fraud, it's usually in China.

        • by jd (1658) <<moc.oohay> <ta> <kapimi>> on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @12:00AM (#35648490) Homepage Journal

          That's just sour grapes. Just because the Chinese tried to fraudulantly deny Perelman his claim to solving one of the world's toughest maths problems (amongst other academic misdeeds)! Besides, academic fraud is widespread. Any South Korean cloning experts come to mind? Then there's the US medical researchers who won't publish papers that would make their sponsors look bad. The truth is, academia needs to be properly and heavily funded by Governments and those trusts that can demonstrate neutrality, not by private organizations, and there really should be a heavy crackdown on corruption.

        • by hahn (101816)
          China also is notorious for science fraud. From my observation, which can be summed up as a 'scientist browsing and delving into various pubs regularly', when there's fraud, it's usually in China.

          And so your conclusion is that they don't publish any good research and that U.S. scientists never commit fraud (or publish bullshit research)?
          • China also is notorious for science fraud. From my observation, which can be summed up as a 'scientist browsing and delving into various pubs regularly', when there's fraud, it's usually in China.

            And so your conclusion is that they don't publish any good research and that U.S. scientists never commit fraud (or publish bullshit research)?

            No. That isn't my conclusion. I normally wouldn't answer a question this ridiculous, but I have a feeling you need extremely clearly stated words else your imagination starts pretending.

      • by SQL Error (16383)

        It's measured in the ability to RTFM, which Chinese scientists seems to excel at:

        "The figures are based on the papers published in recognised international journals listed by the Scopus service of the publishers Elsevier."

        Given some of the crap [elsevier.com] that Elsevier publishes, I'd wait for independent confirmation.

    • by MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) on Monday March 28, 2011 @10:28PM (#35647740)

      Is there some way to objectively measure it? Number of patents, number of papers, what?

      In two turns their SuperComputer will be completed. Since they have a higher population, they'll get more research points. But if we build a Space Station, we can overtake them in 25 years.

      • The problem is we've allocated too many citizens to entertainment and not enough to science and production. Also, our method of government means the citizens are restless with war weariness.

        The domestic advisor recommends you build a temple to keep the populace happy.

    • by XiaoMing (1574363)

      Is there some way to objectively measure it? Number of patents, number of papers, what?

      FTA:

      An analysis of published research - one of the key measures of scientific effort - reveals an "especially striking" rise by Chinese science.

      Chinese spending has grown by 20% per year since 1999, now reaching over $100bn, and as many as 1.5 million science and engineering students graduated from Chinese universities in 2006.

      One key indicator of the value of any research is the number of times it is quoted by other scientists in their work.
      Although China has risen in the "citation" rankings, its performance on this measure lags behind its investment and publication rate.

      Maybe the website can list "the patience to read TFA before asking redundant questions" as one of the metrics?
      Also duly noted that the last one says China still lags behind in number of citations normalized to investment/publications, but still clearly defines a metric.

    • by kurt555gs (309278)

      Number of Chinese scientists? We still have a lot here.

    • by wvmarle (1070040)

      I would argue: there isn't.

      After all what is the value of a particular bit of research? You would say the invention of the transistor was very valuable, but what about the enormous amount of research that went on to get to this point? The discovery of semiconductors, for example. The manufacturing techniques to actually make those parts. A bit of research never comes on its own, and it's anyway hard to put a value on it.

      The information coming out of the LHC for example one person would consider fantastic

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Bowling Moses (591924)
      Yes and no. Here they're using a simple count of the total number of scientific articles published, and yes China will soon eclipse the USA. However not all papers, and the journals they are published it, are created equal. For instance I recently submitted a paper to the "Journal of Medical Entomology." Sounds spiffy, like the first name that slips off of the tongues of science journalists everywhere, no? Nope, it has an impact factor of 2. That means that over the preceding two years the average art
    • by jd (1658)

      It's some function of the number of papers published and the number of times each paper is cited. (It is assumed that the more a paper is cited, the higher the quality of the paper. In a number of countries, Universities are funded according to this measure, so underfunded institutions tend to be penalized for outputing less and rich, and rich, popular institutions tend to get extra funding as they tend to publish more, get into glossier journals, and get their stuff noticed better.)

      It's not a particularly

    • by gmuslera (3436)
      If their number of patents is close to 0, then they are several years ahead of US science, and politics.
    • by $0.02 (618911)

      Basically, the Google algorithm. For every published paper you compute its rank based on the number of other published papers referencing it. Then you make a sum of all the ranks.

  • Chinese universities also have more cheating then us ones.

    • by JanneM (7445) on Monday March 28, 2011 @10:18PM (#35647638) Homepage

      You have any numbers supporting that assertion? Specifically, is it true when weighted by research impact?

      • by wvmarle (1070040) on Monday March 28, 2011 @11:06PM (#35648062)

        There is a lot of anecdotal evidence of cheating.

        And it's also helped by the fact that in China researchers are judged by number of papers they put out - so there is a very strong incentive for copying work from others and add maybe a bit of your own just to push out yet another paper. It's normal for a PhD at a Chinese university to have a dozen or two papers on his name when graduating; against just a few for PhDs at European or American universities.

        Cheating is considered a large problem within universities in China - not only universities but also other parts of the whole education system. I've read about doctors working in hospitals with bought certificates. Recently it was pilots flying commercial Chinese airliners without having actually passed the exams. It's a real problem - and arguably part of the problem is the lack of checks and balances. These pilot licenses should have been verified with the school that purportedly issued them, for example, yet airliners were too busy expanding that they didn't do this. I wouldn't be surprised if more bribes were involved in not having those licenses checked.

        Quality of Chinese research in general is still low. They will surely pick up to the game sooner or later, and there are definitely very good Chinese researchers around. Just have a look at the top universities in the US: many of their top researchers nowadays are Chinese nationals. Oh and that they are working in the US and not in their home country is not just because.

        • by JanneM (7445)

          Yes, there is cheating going on, of course there is. Problem is, cheating is going on elsewhere too, and with only anecdotal evidence it's hard to determine to what degree there really is more cheating in China than in, say, the US or Europe, and to what degree it is a matter of perception.

          "And it's also helped by the fact that in China researchers are judged by number of papers they put out [...]"

          Yep. But so are researchers everywhere. Your publication count - how many papers, with what impact factor - lar

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          If it's anything like my experience in Taiwan then I'm not surprised at all. I went to driving school in Taiwan to get my local license. The school consisted of 5 days a week for 6 weeks we went to school and had a "driving instructor" tell us how to take the test on the course that they have at their school. Their school is also certified to have the test taken there. There are little rocks and other curiously placed items, plus extra large side mirrors and triangular mud flaps, to help aid you along.

  • by russotto (537200) on Monday March 28, 2011 @10:18PM (#35647636) Journal

    ...a machine for turning ramen into "scientific output".

  • Not surprising (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    When I hear things like Texas wants to slash 10 billion dollars from the public education budget. Or did that not get through?

    • So you have some data correlating the amount of money spent to kids learning proper English, math, and science? I would be fascinated.

      • by rubycodez (864176)
        Forty years ago when I was young, we spent a quarter of the inflation-adjusted amount on education as we do today, and actually learned history, geography, English, and mathematics. Half the students today can not find the United States on a globe. There seems to be an inverse correlation.
        • That would be my observation as well. I would note that the number of NEA agitators and highly-paid official seems to have grown astronomically. So I really can't see why the money hasn't gotten any better results - quite puzzling.

    • by rubycodez (864176)
      Most of the money spent on education is wasted, look at at breakdown of your local schools for percent admin, special education, debt servicing, retirement benefits, etc. Slashing 25% or more across the board wouldn't need to change the amount spent on actually teaching.
  • by phantomfive (622387) on Monday March 28, 2011 @10:20PM (#35647646) Journal

    'I think this is positive, of great benefit, though some might see it as a threat and it does serve as a wake-up call for us not to become complacent,' said Professor Sir Chris Llewellyn Smith

    Science is absolutely not a competition. Was Argentina harmed because the US went to the moon? Was Russia harmed when penicillin was discovered? No, not at all. China's increased scientific research is a benefit to all of us.

    The only way you could possibly twist this into a bad thing is if you think China is going to become a military power and try to take over the world. But it's a LONG logical stretch between "greater scientific spending" and "army capable of conquering the rest of the world." So let's cheer up a little and not look at everything through the lens of fear. This is great!

    • by geek (5680)

      Science is absolutely about competition. The "Space Race" was the single greatest time in scientific advancement in history. Being the first to do something great is a fantastic motivator. It is also very rewarding and drives people to do their best work as well as drives people to question the results.

      I can't think of anything more scientific than competition. The desire to be better, to do better, to create and innovate are all competitive.

      • by Roger W Moore (538166) on Monday March 28, 2011 @11:12PM (#35648104) Journal

        The "Space Race" was the single greatest time in scientific advancement in history.

        Not really - the space race was more about technology than science. Scientifically the problem was solved: there was no problem calculating the physics involved to go to the Moon - the problem was developing the technology capable of doing so. It was a fantastic motivator for science and remains one of mankind's shining achievements but was really the result of applying science rather than discovering new science.

        • Thank you. "Rocket Science" is one of the big misnomers of the past century. It really is rocket engineering (i.e. applying scientific results to solve problems). There is nothing wrong with that, but its not science.

        • by Solandri (704621)

          Not really - the space race was more about technology than science. Scientifically the problem was solved: there was no problem calculating the physics involved to go to the Moon - the problem was developing the technology capable of doing so.

          To further back that up, of the 12 people who got to walk on the moon, 11 were pilots. The only scientist to go was a geologist on the very last mission.

        • by geckipede (1261408) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @02:44AM (#35649474)
          There is a big overlap between science and engineering.

          Just to take one example, the fluid flow equations for dealing with turbulence within the combustion chamber and nozzle of the F-1 engines on the Saturn V weren't known sufficiently well to predict their behaviour. At the time, a lot of people thought that constructing such large rocket engines was insanity, and that the Saturn V should use large clusters of smaller engines like the Russian N1 did, as smaller engines were far more stable.

          The problem of stabilising flow in a large combustion chamber was solved experimentally, by testing engine configurations and deliberately introducing instability in them until there was enough data to solve the problem theoretically.

          The end result of all of that was that the Saturn V had a relatively simple five-engined first stage and was very reliable. In contrast, the N1 had huge numbers of engines arranged in rings, which were a nightmare to deliver fuel to, and several flights were lost in incidents of uneven fuel flow.
    • by lennier (44736) on Monday March 28, 2011 @10:47PM (#35647902) Homepage

      Science is absolutely not a competition. Was Argentina harmed because the US went to the moon?

      John F Kennedy, 1961: "We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade, and do the other things, not because it is easy but because it will annoy Argentina."

    • by DrFalkyn (102068)

      Science is absolutely not a competition. Was Argentina harmed because the US went to the moon? Was Russia harmed when penicillin was discovered? No, not at all. China's increased scientific research is a benefit to all of us.

      Was Europe harmed by German research in the 1930s?

    • Was US industry harmed when Japan started taking research seriously, and applying it to their products? Absolutely.

      • by Jeeeb (1141117)

        Was US industry harmed when Japan started taking research seriously, and applying it to their products? Absolutely.

        Was the average US consumer harmed? No. They benefited from cheaper, better quality, more functional products. The fact that US companies couldn't keep up is a problem with US companies. It would be extremely stupid to be afraid of others increasing the knowledge pool of humanity because we want to live in a time warp where companies incapable of innovating are protected from having to.

    • by gmuslera (3436)

      Patent science knowledge, and then it becomes a competition. Add extra points if you manage to harm commerce of countries that don't follow your definition of patents (i.e. only are valid what our citizens invent, the other country inventions could wait till some of us do the same).

      Science used to be standing over the shoulders of giants... now is steping over everyone else to claim everything as yours.

  • Don't forget that they have a much larger population, so they will produce more papers just because there are more people. But as the summary points out, quantity and quality are two different things. In the past, we've seen articles on how competitive people are over there (few top schools, and too large a population = greater competition) to the point where there have been reports of academic dishonesty (not to say that they are the only ones, though).
  • Good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by JanneM (7445) on Monday March 28, 2011 @10:25PM (#35647714) Homepage

    A step rise in Chinese research - and in Indian, and other newly developed countries - means more total research happening around the world. More research and more results is a win for everyone.

    In addition, the spread of research efforts mean that more avenues are explored, and that progress is not as dependent on the temporary political and scientific winds in any particular country or region.

    • by wvmarle (1070040)

      [...] progress is not as dependent on the temporary political and scientific winds in any particular country or region.

      Don't forget religious and cultural ideas.

      For example astronomy is a subject that was held up for long time for religious/cultural reasons. For example, for very long astronomers tried anything to just be able to explain the movements of the planets on the assumption that the Earth is at the centre of the universe. They just wouldn't/couldn't accept the idea that the Sun is the centre of our solar system - let alone that even the Sun is not the centre of our universe.

      Various cultures have various ideas on

  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Monday March 28, 2011 @10:29PM (#35647744)

    China may do a lot of research, but it does not seem to do a lot of good research. If you've been to China, it is understandable why: There is very much a mentality of "Whatever you want to do is ok, so long as it gets you ahead." Lying, cheating, all perfectly ok. Well maybe you can argue this works in normal life and business (though some serious downsides can be pointed out) it doesn't work in science.

    Feynman put it really well (he was talking about the Challenger disaster): "For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled."

    Well China's culture doesn't magically stop when you start talking universities and labs. The faking of results goes along strong, because it helps you get ahead. Publish more papers, be more prominent and all that. Works for the individual researcher, I suppose, but that means overall the research is useless. I can write as many papers as I like, fake as many results as I like, that claim that X causes Y. However if X does indeed not cause Y it doesn't do any good, I can't change reality.

    Before China can become truly top at science, as in producing the most useful actual output, they'll have to have a cultural change, at least in the scientific community and probably the larger culture.

    However I also fail to see why this is a big deal. I wouldn't consider myself all that worldly, but I've traveled to a fair number of countries not the US. All of them are by definition #2 or lower in science output, as well as many other things the US is #1 at. Guess what? that doesn't matter. They are nice places to live, with happy productive people, stable governments, and so on (I don't tend to visit countries that don't meet those requirements). I could move to Canada or the UK or Norway and be quite happy there. They may not be #1 in anything, I don't know, but it doesn't matter. You don't have to be the best at everything, I think maybe Americans need to learn that.

  • I'm surprised; I thought the Chinese were already "beating us" (whatever that means) in Science. Good for them! Hopefully this will inspire the U.S. and Europe to get their shit together.
  • Woohoo! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SecurityGuy (217807) on Monday March 28, 2011 @10:35PM (#35647804)

    Awesome. Then we can just copy their IP for a change.

    Aww, go ahead and mod me troll. You know it's true.

    • by c0lo (1497653)

      Awesome. Then we can just copy their IP for a change.

      Aww, go ahead and mod me troll. You know it's true.

      Interesting. Here's a question to ponder, how is US going to pay the debt to China?
      1. commodities? Australia covers most of the mineral sector, thank you; as for agri-exports, there are countries with lower prices.
      2. US production? China owns it.
      3. IP? China is (or will be) ahead - this assuming China actually gives a more than a damn about IP.
      4. Music/movies/entertainment? Somehow, I don't think the Chinese people are actually interested in Lady Gaga, Pink or the like.
      5. "Fast pizza delivery" and othe

  • However, the report points out that a growing volume of research publications does not necessarily mean in increase in quality...

    Let's remember that although the USA discovered the silicon chip via Bell Telephone Laboratories USA, it was not until the Japanese came around and showed us what to do with it.

    Guess what, several decades later, all our electronics are Asian made! What a shame! And the recent quake in Japan exposes how dependent we are on those Asians when it comes to sophisticated chips...forget INTEL and AMD.

    I am afraid this story will be repeated but with China this time.

  • ... ummm

    ...

    facebook profiles per capita?

    Yeah! That'll show 'em! Hell yeah! USA! USA! USA!
    • by c0lo (1497653)

      ... ummm ... facebook profiles per capita? Yeah! That'll show 'em! Hell yeah! USA! USA! USA!

      In the same category, don't forget "fast pizza delivery".

  • dumb and dumber (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bcrowell (177657) on Monday March 28, 2011 @10:51PM (#35647936) Homepage

    This article is dumb for (at least) two reasons:

    Dumb: As noted in the slashdot summary, quantity of papers isn't the same as quality. I have published physics papers in refereed journals, and my experience is that most scientific papers are correct but utterly inconsequential. They matter to the people who published them, because those people are desperate to get permanent jobs. Period.

    Dumber: It's not a nuclear arms race, it's scientific research. By the (lame) metric of quantity of papers, the U.S. has increased its "output," while China has increased its "output" as well (and at a greater rate). Why is this a bad thing? Scientific progress enriches everyone.

    • Ok, one question: If the quality of the papers being published isn't very good, as you seem to be suggesting, then how does China's increase in scientific output help to enrich everyone? It would seem to me that science as an enriching process is contingent upon quality contribution; the contrapositive of that statement being that a lack of quality necessitates a lack of enrichment.

      Might I also observe that the statement "quantity of papers isn't the same as quality" applies just as surely to the US as

  • I hope ... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 28, 2011 @10:55PM (#35647970)

    When the US is a third-rate, has-been country with no scientific or technological leadership in the world, the irony will be that it wasn't the Communists or terrorists that did us in ... it was all of those so-called America-loving conservatives who reward ignorance and shun scientific knowledge, who defund scientific research and agencies, who cut education and kill financial aide for college students, who attack scientists for daring to contradict the ideology with their elitist "facts." It will have been these people who damned our country.

  • Reminds me of this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTSQozWP-rM&feature=player_embedded

  • by ub3r n3u7r4l1st (1388939) on Monday March 28, 2011 @11:10PM (#35648088)

    With people complaining about STEM brain drain [slashdot.org] due to lack of science funding from the government, and STEM grads jumping into the luscious field of finance [slashdot.org], what do you expect?

  • Well, fine, so they're great at SCIENCE. How good are they at spying on their own citizens, printing money, and starting senseless wars? eh? eh? Yeah, that's what I thought, the US still has that market cornered... so there.

  • Greetings China! We demand $Technology as tribute for our continued friendship! Be aware, our words are backed by NUCLEAR FORCE!
  • by 2Bits (167227) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @01:01AM (#35648918)

    ... in scientific research when you see the following:

    1. Best research papers are published in the local language, and not in a foreign language
    2. The country hosts the best scientific publication entities.
    3. Scientists do not have to learn a foreign language to do research and read papers.
    4. Other countries' scientists have, at least, a working knowledge of your language.
    5. The best and brightest in the world come to study at your graduate schools.
    6. The best and brightest scientists want to immigrate to your country (to have the opportunities to work on advanced research).

    None of these apply to China yet, and I don't think it happen in 10 years, let alone 2 years. So, if I were an American policy maker, I'm not gonna to freak out yet.

    • ... in scientific research when you see the following:

      - Sales and marketing are considered more important professions then doctor or scientist.
      - Reality TV is considered an unmissable event.
      - Solutions to problems involve cutting budgets to scientific organisations.
      - It's popular to advertise your own ignorance.
      - It's unpopular to show an aptitude for something.
      - Scientific research in one area is halted by a religious minority waving an old book.
      - You have to write lists of poorly thought out points to dissuade yourself from the fact science is failing

  • by acb (2797) on Tuesday March 29, 2011 @05:31AM (#35650206) Homepage

    The USA's lead in Creation Science is expected to be safe.

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