Nature Nanotechnology published an editorial in their June 2008 issue about which countries have published the most articles and which are most often cited. In examining their own journal and a couple studies, they found that the US has published the most with China coming up quickly to overtake US output in the near future.
How do you attribute an article to a country? In these studies, they looked at the lead author’s affiliation. For number freaks, Nature Nanotechnology published 94 letters and 55 articles with 47.6% of the authors being located in the US, followed by 8% from the UK, 7.4% from Japan and 6.7% from Germany. I guess the rest of us make up the other 30% or so. The figures about the China’s articles come from other studies that the editorial cites. (I’d link to Nature Nanotech but the journal’s latest issues are behind a paywall. They’ll let you sniff some of the cheese but you won’t be able to take a bite for at least a year.)
One point they do make is that the Chinese articles aren’t cited as often as US articles or even Japanese articles (China’s output has been higher than Japan’s since 1990). All of which is interesting since, citations are one measure of quality and/or influence. I think it’s safe to assume that they’re talking about articles that were written in English so we’re not looking at language issues. Still, I can think of at least one reason why work from China might not be cited as often: geopolitical tensions.
Here’s another suggestion: where are the Chinese authors getting published? If your work isn’t being published in journals that other interested parties are reading, how are you going to get cited? (Brief related story) I do research for a psychiatrist (he specializes in pain management) who’s interested in checking out some of the latest research on morphine. I have two entirely separate research tracks each with their own specialized vocabularies and specialty-specific journals. If I use the wrong words, I won’t find the other research material. (Back to the nano) So now there are two other possible problems. Researchers casually thumbing through Nature Nanotechnology are not going to see many articles from China (as per the June 2008 editorial) and, if Chinese researchers are using the vocabulary differently, standard keyword research strategies aren’t going to lead you to their work.
As for the Canadian nanotechnology scene, we don’t seem to be on the radar for either Nature Nanotechnology or the two studies they cited. I’m a little curious about that since there was a presenter at the 2008 Cascadia Nanotechnology Symposium in March who focussed on numbers of articles published by Canadian nano researchers. As I recall, he indicated that our numbers are pretty healthy. I’m trying to track that info. down but I can’t find M. Fatih Yegul’s (University of Waterloo) presentation on the symposium website or any other published version of his information.