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China shoots up rankings as science power, study finds

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN
More than one out of every 10 scientific papers published in the period from 2004 to 2008 came from China.
More than one out of every 10 scientific papers published in the period from 2004 to 2008 came from China.
  • China moves from sixth place to second in the publication of science articles
  • The United States remains on top, but its dominance is slipping
  • China's influence isn't growing as fast as its output
  • The findings come from the Royal Society in Britain
  • China
  • Hong Kong

London (CNN) -- China is experiencing a "meteoric rise" in the publication of scientific papers in the past two decades, and while the United States remains on top, its dominance is slipping, a new study found this week.

Fewer than one out of 20 of the world's scientific articles came out of China in the decade up to 2003, the study shows. But the number rose to more than one out of 10 in the period from 2004 to 2008.

That pushed it up from sixth place to second, Britain's Royal Society found.

The United States was in first place in both time periods, but its share of publications dropped from more than one in four to about one in five.

The United Kingdom held steady in third place, but its share dropped from 7.1% to 6.5%, according to the study, "Knowledge, Networks and Nations: Global scientific collaboration in the 21st century."

China's influence and prestige in science may not be rising as fast as its output, the paper suggested.

The Royal Society measured how often each country's papers were cited by other researchers, a "means of evaluating the quality of publications," and found the United States first and the UK second.

China is rising, "although the rise does not mirror the rapidity of growth seen in the nation's investment or publication output."

Other nations are also newly making a mark in science, including Iran, Tunisia and Turkey, the paper found.

And it also discovered a rise in international collaboration on research papers. Only a quarter of articles had authors from more than one country 15 years ago, while today it's more than one in three.

The full report is available on the website of the Royal Society, Britain's national scientific academy.