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China has displaced the U.S. as the world's top research publisher in science and engineering

We recently came across data from the US National Science Board, highlighting what is called Science & Engineering Indicators 2020. It deals with the science & engineering articles that have been published around the world. Its latest data are for 2018 and these are the main takeaways:

  • Global research output, as measured by peer-reviewed science and engineering journal articles and conference papers, grew about 4% annually over the last 10 years.
  • China’s rate of research output has grown almost twice as fast as the world’s annual average for the last 10 years, while the output of the United States and European Union (EU) has grown at less than half the world’s annual growth rate.
  • Research papers from United States and EU countries continue to have the most impact; however, China has shown a rapid increase in producing impactful publications, as measured by references to journal articles and conference papers.
  • Specialization in scientific fields differs among countries, with the United States, the EU, and Japan more specialized in health sciences and China and India more specialized in engineering, as measured by journal articles and conference papers.


The last decade has seen a difference in the publication growth rates of middle- and high-income economies. The number of articles from upper-middle- and lower-middle-income economies combined grew 9% per year while the output of high- income countries grew 1% per year from 2008 to 2018.



In 2008, the U.S. published 394,979 science & engineering articles in peer-reviewed journals, ahead of China's 249,049. China's rapid growth rate saw it publish 528,263 articles in 2018, ahead of U.S. output totalling 422,808. India came third in 2018 with 135,788. The EU’s collective output came to 622,000 research articles, meaning it accounted for almost a quarter of the global total. China made up 20.67% while the U.S. accounted for 16.54%.


About the author

Gino Delaere

Gino Delaere

Gino Delaere is master in Applied Economics (University of Antwerp) and holds an MBA (Xavier Institute of Management in Bhubaneswar, India). For over two decades he has been specializing in emerging markets worldwide and traveling the world looking for interesting investment opportunities. Previously he worked for several large asset managers where he was actively involved in several thematically inspired equity funds. He joined Econopolis in 2010 and in his current role he is co-responsible for managing the emerging markets and climate funds.

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