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China's research rise

Number of domestic researchers draws level with Europe and the United States.

China has approximately as many researchers as either the United States or the European Union (EU), according to the US National Science Foundation (NSF) Science and Engineering Indicators 2010 report.

The biennial report found that each of the three had about 1.4 million researchers as of 2007, but the annual growth in the number of researchers is much higher in China (see graph, top right). That growth includes a continued steep increase in the number China's science and engineering doctorates, up to 21,000 in 2006, the latest data available. The relentless rate of growth over the past decade is unusual, says Rolf Lehming, programme director of the indicators project. “When we see this kind of strong increase in numbers, we usually expect a flattening out after several years,” he says.

Although most of the NSF indicators are based on statistics collected before the global recession took hold in 2008, the NSF did track more recent unemployment figures for US scientists. Unemployment rates for scientists and engineers remain lower than for the general population. However, the estimated recent rate of unemployment increase was much higher for scientists and engineers (see graph, right). From March 2008 to September 2009, the rate increased from 5.4% to 9.8% for the general population, less than a twofold change. For scientists and engineers, it tripled, jumping from 1.8% to 5.4%.

Credit: SOURCE : NSF SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING INDICATORS 2010
Credit: SOURCE : US CURRENT POPULATION SURVEY, PUBLIC USE MICRODATA SAMPLE
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Russo, G. China's research rise. Nature 463, 575 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1038/nj7280-575a

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