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As it Becomes a Science Superpower, China Bets on Open Access for its Global Data Sharing and Research Initiatives

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天津外国语学院 (Tianjin Foreign Studies University), Tianjin Shi, Tianjin, China, May 13, 2006 | © Courtesy of Jinjian Liang/Flickr.

While China pulled ahead of the United States in the number of scholarly papers published since 2016, its global development agenda includes not only infrastructure investment along the revived Silk Road route, but also the integration of Open Access into its international scientific collaboration platforms.

A Blog Article by Pablo Markin.


According to the National Science Foundation of the United States, China-based scholars have published over 426,000 scientific articles in 2016, as indicated by Elsevier’s Scopus database data, which makes for 18.6% of the world’s total and exceeds by 4.16% the American output of more than 409,000 scholarly papers for the same period. While the United States maintains leading positions in multiple science and technology fields, such as by spending 496 billion USD on research and development in 2016, which amounts to 26% of funds directed to these areas worldwide, China’s spending for these purposes totaled 408 billion USD and amounted to 21% of global science-related spending in 2015.

In other words, by increasing its average annual spending on research and development by 18% each year between 2000 and 2015, China is rapidly becoming a scientific and technological powerhouse, especially in various areas of engineering research. At the same time, Chinese scientific articles remain less cited and statistics of patents registered are lower than those of their American counterparts. This is not likely to preclude China’s further scientific and technological advances. Moreover, as China seeks to complement its Belt and Road initiative inaugurated in 2013 and primarily aimed at strengthening its economic cooperation with Asian, European and African countries, it incorporates Open Access into its science- and technology-related strategy for international collaboration in various fields, such as terrestrial and marine terrain imaging.

These China-led initiatives correspond to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) calls to preserve fragile ecological ecosystems, world heritage sites and areas endangered by climate change. In this respect, by promoting international scientific collaboration, Open Access can contribute to the mitigation of global risks by the application of advanced technology, such as satellite-based imaging and big data analytics. Thus, the expected 32 million USD investment by the Chinese Academy of Sciences into environmental monitoring, data sharing and international policy-making comprises Open Access as its core pillar, as it can enable scientific researcher and decision makers to monitor natural environments, follow global developments and share data arrays across borders.

China’s adoption of Open Access demonstrates that Open Access can further international multilateral collaboration between non-governmental and scientific organizations to address urgent challenges, such as crop and disaster site monitoring, while overcoming the digital divide between developed and developing countries through openly accessible cooperation frameworks that allow for pooling resources, data, expertise and funding.

This is illustrated by recent research results arrived at by a Sino-American team of scientists from Tianjin University and Northwestern University published in a recently launched Open Access journal Joule and funded by science funding bodies based in both China and the United States, such as National Natural Science Foundation of China, which can lead to lighter and more durable batteries.

By Pablo Markin


Featured Image Credits: 天津外国语学院 (Tianjin Foreign Studies University), Tianjin Shi, Tianjin, China, May 13, 2006 | © Courtesy of Jinjian Liang/Flickr.

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