Japan Data

China Overtakes US to Rank Top for Science Papers: Japan in Fourth Place

Science Technology

Japan is currently fourth in the world for its number of academic papers in the natural science field. Meanwhile China has placed top for the first time, overtaking the United States.

A report by Japan’s National Institute of Science and Technology Policy found that China published more academic papers in the natural science field than the United States between 2016 and 2018, topping the list for the first time. Germany placed third and Japan fell one rank from the previous conducted survey in 2010 to fourth. The number of papers a country publishes in the field is an index of its research and development capabilities.

Top 10 Countries by Share of Natural Science Papers (Yearly Average 2016–18)

Number of Papers Share
1 China 305,927 19.9%
2 United States 281,487 18.3%
3 Germany 67,041 4.4%
4 Japan 64,874 4.2%
5 Britain 62,443 4.1%
6 India 59,207 3.9%
7 South Korea 48,649 3.2%
8 Italy 46,322 3.0%
9 France 45,387 3.0%
10 Canada 41,071 2.7%

Created by Nippon.com based on data from the National Institute of Science and Technology Policy.

In its report, the institute analyzed 10,000 natural science papers published in Nature and other scientific journals worldwide over the period. As many were international collaborations, fractional counts were used to assess the degree of contribution, and then estimate the number of papers per country.

The results placed China top with 305,927 papers (a 19.9% share), surpassing the United States that had 281,487 papers (18.3%). Germany came third with 67,041 papers (4.4%), Japan was fourth with 64,874 (4.2%), and Britain placed fifth with 62,443 (4.1%). Thus, China and the United States far outstripped the other countries.

At the time of the previous report a decade earlier, Japan had 66,460 papers, so there has been little change in the number published. However, as there has been a relative increase from other countries, Japan’s ranking has dropped. In indexes based on the papers that have been cited most often, Japan came in at only ninth place for both the top 10% and top 1% of papers.

China had most researchers with 1.87 million (2018), followed by the United States with 1.43 million (2017), Japan with 680,000 (2019), Germany with 430,000 (2018), and South Korea, which had 410,000 (2018). 

Researchers and R&D Expenses in Major Countries

Number of Researchers
China 1,870,000
United States 1,430,000
Japan 680,000
Germany 430,000
South Korea 410,000
Total R&D Expenses (¥ trillion)
United States 60.7
China 58.0
Japan 17.9
Germany 14.8
South Korea 10.3

Created by Nippon.com based on data from the National Institute of Science and Technology Policy. Japan’s R&D expenses are based on OECD estimates.

For total R&D expenses as of 2018, the United States had ¥61 trillion. China ranked second with ¥58 trillion, followed by Japan with ¥18 trillion, Germany with ¥15 trillion, and South Korea with ¥10 trillion.

(Translated from Japanese. Banner photo: Yoshino Akira (front row, third from right) receives the Nobel Prize in Chemistry at the award ceremony held in Stockholm on December 10, 2019. © Jiji.)

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