China’s publications: fewer but better

We disagree with your characterization of the decrease in the number of papers published by Chinese authors (Nature 591, 353–354; 2021). The fall is the result of a drive to improve the quality of research, not of a retreat from international collaborations.

The number of papers is only one of many ways of evaluating researchers’ academic achievements. It might not be the best guide to scientific output, because China is now seeking to improve the quality, rather than the quantity, of its publications. Last August, for example, three of its top research societies jointly published a list of high-quality journals in the fields of economics and management (see go.nature.com/3cadjdv) in a bid to raise standards. The China Association for Science and Technology has been doing similar work since 2019 and comparable lists exist for 30 fields, including geoscience and clinical medicine.

China has sought to strengthen international connections through work on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. For example, the National Natural Science Foundation of China still considers exchanges with other countries to be important when assessing the performance of the projects it funds. International cooperation has always been an important part of Chinese scientists’ achievements.

Nature 592, 507 (2021)

doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-021-01026-7


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