BRIC science profiles ‘more like the G7’

The majority of China’s science output continues to be in engineering, chemistry, physics and maths Flickr/CIMMYT

The pattern of science publishing in the emerging economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China (the ‘BRICs’) is becoming increasingly similar to that in developed G7 countries, the Chinese Academy of Sciences has reported.

Researchers sampled articles published across a wide range of disciplines in 1991, 2000 and 2009, and found that the output from the BRICs shifted steadily to more closely resemble that of the G7, according to the study in Scientometrics(14 March).

They found that the G7 continue to have a more balanced portfolio of disciplines than the BRICs. Of the four BRIC countries, they noted that China in particular had moved steadily towards a more even balance of output across the disciplines — partly through policy, and partly as a result of rapid economic growth, said lead researcher, Liying Yang.

Despite the shift, differences between BRIC and developed country outputs persist, the authors noted, pointing out that mathematics, physics, chemistry and engineering consistently accounted for the majority of Chinese and Russian publications from 1991 to 2009.

“After the Second World War, China, Russia and Eastern European countries paid sustained attention to basic research, including nuclear science, that is closely related to these disciplines,” Yang told SciDev.Net.

An exception to this trend is Brazil. While the United States and Britain continue to dominate the life sciences, Brazil has increased its published papers in this area from 50 to 70 per cent of national output.

“Brazil has been traditionally strong in biotech and the government emphasises its development,” Yang said. “Moreover, Brazil is more open about cooperating with the West and learning from its experiences, which is different from China’s emphasis on ‘self-dependent innovation’.”

But overall, the BRICs continue to lag behind developed nations in global life-sciences output, a trend Yang suggested could be problematic in the long term.

“There should be much stronger investment in this area,” she said, adding that unexpected challenges such as the SARS outbreak in 2002 suggested the need for greater balance in China’s research and development priorities.

Ronald Rousseau, a scientometrics researcher at the Catholic University College of Bruges-Ostend, Belgium, said the paper has a limitation as it is based only on national publication outputs rather than an assessment of the quality or efficacy of the research and its societal impact.

“China is number two in the world based on yearly number of publications, but it is certainly not number two in citations per publication,” he toldSciDev.Net.

Source: SciDev.Net – 12 April 2012