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Exploring the growing impact of Chinese research via open access

March 2, 2021

By Linda Willems

Beijing cityscape at dusk

As KeAi launches its 100th international OA journal, experts behind the Beijing-based CSPM-Elsevier partnership explain how quality and visibility are driving change

Pictured above: Beijing at dusk © Works

A quick look at the facts and figures makes it clear that China’s contribution to the world of research is continuing to accelerate in terms of quantity and quality.

The number of researchers in China is rising year on year. Although its research output has been similar in size to that of the United States for many years, China is now edging aheadopens in new tab/window. Its research into areas like artificial intelligence, robotics and quantum computing is breaking new ground; in late 2020, for example, a team in China claimed to have developedopens in new tab/window the most powerful quantum computer in the world.

Early indications are that China’s next 5-year plan will continue to prioritize investment in these technology-related areas. In fact, China is fast closing the gap in R&D fundingopens in new tab/window with the US.

This focus on investment and innovation has helped, in part, to drive the equally rapid growth of KeAiopens in new tab/window – the joint venture between CSPM,opens in new tab/window the publishing arm of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Elsevier. Following its shift to focus on open access (OA) publishing in 2013, KeAi now publishes 100 international English-language OA journalsopens in new tab/window spanning all scientific disciplines. Many are titles published in partnership with prestigious societies and academic institutions, such as the Chinese Medical Association.

We interviewed the editors, authors and publishing teams behind KeAi’s success to understand how the Chinese research landscape is evolving and which areas are ripe for change.

“Let the world see China”

For Prof Jianliu Wang, Editor-in-Chief of KeAi’s 100th journal – Gynecology and Obstetrics Clinical Medicine – Chinese research has yet to receive the global visibility it deserves. He points out that in 2019, 19.1 percent of contributing authors to SCI journals were Chinese, yet only 1.2 percent of papers were published in China-based journals, such as those run by KeAi:

I think scientific research innovation is the answer, the core force. By promoting high-level scientific research achievements, let the world see China; by establishing international journals and holding international conferences, let the world recognize China.

Prof Jianliu Wang

Prof Jianliu Wang, MD, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Peking University People's Hospital, China

“Quality through honest international cooperation”

Prof Luoping Zhangopens in new tab/window, Editor-in-Chief of KeAi’s Advances in Biomarker Sciences and Technologyopens in new tab/window, believes China has already embarked on a path that will strengthen the country’s international profile:

In recent years, China has invested in making research more transparent, fair and science-based. It is important to not only focus on quantity but to also highlight its quality by facilitating and seeking honest international cooperation.

Prof Luoping Zhang

Prof Luoping Zhang, PhD, University of California, Berkeley, Division of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health

“An indispensable platform to exchange ideas”

Prof Sun Chang-Puopens in new tab/window, who has published more than 300 peer-reviewed papers, including in KeAi’s Fundamental Researchopens in new tab/window, said reputable and recognized journals offer one of the best routes for highlighting the strong research coming out of China:

They are an indispensable platform for peers to openly exchange ideas on research progress.

In the case of young and junior researchers, he said, academic journals can facilitate their professional careers in four ways:

  1. Tracking cutting-edge literature in their field of interest

  2. Identifying their research direction

  3. Forming their own judgement of good and bad science

  4. Learning from science masters such as Nobel Laureates Paul Diracopens in new tab/window and Chen Ning Yangopens in new tab/window et al

Prof Sun Chang-Pu

Prof Sun Chang-Pu, PhD, Chair Professor, Beijing Computational Science Research Center; Dean, Graduate School of China Academy of Engineering Physics; Academician, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing

“A knowledge base to solve the world’s most challenging problems”

It’s a view shared by Prof Abba Gumelopens in new tab/window, who has published in KeAi’s Infectious Disease Modellingopens in new tab/windowIn addition, Prof Gumel, whose research includes looking at the transmission dynamics of infectious diseases, believes China has much to contribute to the current global challenges that society faces:

Top journals such as Infectious Disease Modelling play a vital role in the dissemination and promotion of quality science. This not only advances our research disciplines but also helps to provide the knowledge base that is crucial to solving some of the world's most challenging problems, such as the control of the ongoing ravaging coronavirus pandemic.

Prof Abba Gumel

Prof Abba Gumel, PhD, School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences & Barrett Honors College Faculty, Arizona State University

Taking science in China to the next level

For Gert-Jan Geraedsopens in new tab/windowGeneral Manager of KeAi, collaboration will prove the key to future success.

The foundation of KeAi’s success is international collaboration and the same is true for science in China. Over the years, the number of Chinese articles with international co-authors has steadily increased – and with that, the quality of articles published.

KeAi, Chinese academic institutions and individual researchers alike share a huge ambition to take science in China to the next level of excellence. I am impressed with the energy, discipline and persistence that the research community in China render to realize that ambition.

Gert Jan Garaeds

Gert-Jan Geraeds, General Manager, KeAi

Playing a key role in the research community of China and the world

For Bin Pengopens in new tab/window, General Manager of China Science Publishing & Media Ltd (CSPM), and Lynn Liopens in new tab/window, Managing Director of Greater China for Elsevier, supporting the growth of KeAi to showcase research in China is a priority. Peng views the launch of the 100th journal as an important milestone for the company:

It shows that KeAi and KeAi journals are playing a much more important role in the research community of China and the world. Chinese researchers have previously outperformed Chinese journals in academia. Looking at the pace of KeAi’s development over the last few years, together with the continuing support of China’s research policies for science and technology journals, we are proud to see many excellent journals launched and their international visibility improved.

Bin Peng

Bin Peng, General Manager, CSPM

Li confirms that China remains a very important market for Elsevier:

KeAi is one of Elsevier’s strategic long-term investments in China. Over the past 20 years, we have met many research and policy leaders who have asked for our support to grow high-quality Chinese STM journals. KeAi is best positioned to support this. Under this joint venture model, KeAi has been able to leverage the best platform, experience, talent and cutting-edge technology of Elsevier.\

For Li, this commitment is reflected in Elsevier’s growing investment in China:

Even in the difficult time of COVID-19, we have added over new 150 jobs, built up a research and development hub in Shanghai and set up a new office in Shenzhen.

Lynn Li

Lynn Li, Managing Director, Greater China, Elsevier


Portrait photo of Linda Willems


Linda Willems

Freelance writer and owner

Blue Lime Communications

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