China Forecast to Lead World S&T Soon

A new paper warns that the U.S. will soon be passed by the People’s Republic of China to lead the world in S&T.  The Race for World Leadership of Science and Technology: Status and Forecasts was presented at the International Conference on Scientometrics and Informetrics in Rio de Janeiro in July, 2009 by R. D. Shelton and P. Foland.  It presents a dozen indicators of inputs and outputs of the national S&T enterprises of the U.S., EU, and PRC.  Current indicators show that the U.S. and EU have comparable positions with China well below in many cases.  However, more careful analysis shows that the trends are alarmingly unfavorable to the West.  China is improving its position rapidly, and simple extrapolations show that it will soon lead in many important indicators.

The paper focuses on the number of scientific papers in the world’s leading journals for more detailed analysis.  Using a model developed by Shelton that relates world share of papers to world share of research investment, the paper forecasts that China will pass the U.S. and EU by 2017 in this key indicator.  Kostoff has shown that China already leads the world in some physical science databases of papers.  Leydesdorf and Wagner have a paper in press, partly based on Shelton’s input-output analysis, that also predicts that China will soon pass the West.

Forecast Graph

The Rio paper is posted at

R. D. Shelton

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