For First Time Ever, China's Scientific Output Tops The United States’

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"The US continues to be the global leader in science and technology, but the world is changing." -Maria Zuber

China has officially surpassed the United States in the number of scientific papers it published in 2016, showing the effort China has made in recent years to push forward in the realm of academic research.

The biennial Science and Engineering Indicators report is published by the US National Science Foundation (NSF), tracking innumerable markers of scientific achievement and scale across countries (the 2018 online report clocks in at over 1,000 pages).

In 2016, China published over 426,000 scientific studies indexed by Elsevier's Scopus database – accounting for about 18.6 percent of the international total. For the first time, the US came in second, notching up 409,000 published papers.

On most other metrics used for the global scoring, the United States comes in ahead of China, and in certain areas the two countries are somewhat complementary:

For example, researchers in the US and the EU produce more papers (and patents) on biomedical science, while China demonstrates a lead in engineering research – as does South Korea.

By financial measures, the US still demonstrates impressive leadership, spending the most on research and development (R&D) - US$496 billion, 26 percent share of the global total - and bringing in the most investment to the tune of almost $70 billion.

For some, the question is not just about the numbers but about how quickly China has achieved the success it has:

"The US continues to be the global leader in science and technology, but the world is changing," [National Science Board, Maria Zuber] told Nature.

"We can't be asleep at the wheel."