• Kyodo

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Japan fell by one place to a record-low 10th in a ranking of how many scientific papers published between 2017 and 2019 were highly cited, while China topped the global list for the first time by surpassing the United States, according to a government institute report.

Researchers in Japan published on average 3,787 highly cited papers a year in the three-year period but were overtaken by India, which came in ninth with 4,082 papers, the National Institute of Science and Technology Policy said Tuesday. The previous ranking covered the period between 2016 and 2018.

China topped the latest ranking with 40,219 papers, followed by the United States at 37,124 and the U.K. at 8,687, according to the Science and Technology Indicators 2021 report.

Between 1997 and 1999, Japan came in fourth with 4,336 papers.

Japanese papers were most often cited in the fields of physics, clinical medicine and chemistry, according to the report.

U.S. papers performed well in the sectors of clinical medicine, basic life sciences and physics, while Chinese papers were cited most frequently in the fields of material science, chemistry, engineering as well as computer science and mathematics.

Papers written by researchers from multiple countries were allocated to nations based on the contributions of the authors.

Japan’s decline in the rankings over recent years reflects stagnant growth in its number of researchers, with the number of people newly acquiring a doctoral degree having fallen since 2006 to some 15,000.

The United States and China, meanwhile, have seen steady rises in the number of new doctoral degree holders each year, totaling around 90,000 and roughly 60,000 respectively, according to the latest data collected by the institute.

Analysts also attribute Japan’s low standing in the ranking to a lack of funding for researchers at many universities.

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