According to the Financial Times, Chinese scientific research will dominate by 2020, using the metric of peer reviewed articles. Will this herald a shift in the language of scientific discovery? It was an Anglo-German enterprise prior to the First World War and is currently dominated by the English language. Will the 21st century demand a co-dominion with Mandarin?
The success of the vast growth in Chinese research is due to an education system geared towards science, huge funding in research and an efficient use of their diaspora. This compares favourably with other emerging powers:
In contrast to China, India and Russia, whose research strengths tend to be in the physical sciences, chemistry and engineering, Brazil stands out in health, life sciences, agriculture and environmental research. It is a world leader in using biofuels in auto and aero engines.
There is only one also-ran amongst the BRICs.
At the opposite extreme is Russia, which produced fewer research papers than Brazil or India in 2008.
Just 20 years ago, on the eve of the Soviet Union’s disintegration, Russia was a scientific superpower, carrying out more research than China, India and Brazil combined. Since then it has been left behind.
The Thomson Reuters figures show not only the “awe-inspiring” expansion of Chinese science but also a very powerful performance by Brazil, much slower growth in India and relative decline in Russia.
Scientific papers do not act as a predictor of future success, but the rise of the non-Western powers is startling.