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Research Fronts 2020 Released: China Leading in 4 Major Areas of Scientific Research


China leads the world in four major research areas out of eleven in terms of academic activity and influence, according to the report "Research Fronts 2020" jointly released by the Institutes of Science and Development of Chinese Academy of Sciences (CASISD), the National Science Library of Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Clarivate on Nov 13.

The 2020 report identifies 148 research fronts, including 110 hot and 38 emerging research specialties, based on quantitative co-citation analysis of the world's most significant papers published in 11 broad research areas over the past 5 years, ranging from Geosciences, Clinical Medicine, Biological Sciences, Physics, Mathematics, Information Science, to Economics, Psychology and other Social Sciences.

GAO Hongjun, Vice President of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), said in his opening remark: "As one of national high-level science and technology (S&T) think tanks, it is an important mission of CASISD to support the national macro-decision and to grasp the world trends in S&T development. We have started a series of strategic research programs including Study and analysis on China's major scientific and technological breakthrough that may impact the future global landscape."

"China's S&T capability has entered a transformative phase, which will become the basis for facilitating economic growth, improving people’s livelihoods and protecting national security," he said. The annual report, which is the seventh of its kind, provides an analysis and interpretation of the layout and competitive structure of global S&T development in 2020 to help scientists and policymakers determine key innovation topics and trends.

"For the first time, the previous category of Mathematics, Computer Science and Engineering was split into two: Mathematics and Information Science," said PAN Jiaofeng, CASISD President. Mathematics, generally regarded as a very fundamental subject that provides theories and tools, is getting more and more attention, due to its increasingly prominent role nowadays being part of technology.

The frontier clusters around these fronts reveal a clear overall trend of multiple breakthroughs and convergence in the S&T development in today's world, according to the report.

Several Research Fronts identified in recent years reflected the award-winning research of Nobel prize winners. For instance, recent reports recognized Research Fronts related to black holes in Physics, which was recognized by the Nobel committee in 2020. Genome editing, recognized by the Nobel committee for the 2020 Chemistry prize, was also identified as a Research Front for several years.

This year, China ranks first in four major research categories: agricultural, plant and animal sciences; chemistry and materials science; mathematics and information science. China also ranks second in ecology and environmental sciences; physics; social sciences including economics and psychology. However, China is notably behind other scientific powerhouses in clinical medicine and astronomy and astrophysics, ranking at 12th and 8th, respectively.

Of the 148 research fronts, 79 are led by the US, while China leads global research in 42 specialties. The two countries combined accounted for around 80 percent of all the listed specialties. The UK tops the world in 10 topics, Germany four and France one.

"This is an important report because its content guides us to the hottest and emerging specialty areas in scientific research. The fruits of this collaboration will enable the global research community to better turn scientific discoveries into innovation that can change the world," said Jerre Stead in his video remark, Executive Chairman and CEO of Clarivate.

In terms of overall national performance in these research fronts, the US tops the world for the fourth straight year, followed by China, United Kingdom, Germany, and France. Of the top five countries, China is the only one that is making noticeable progress in catching up with the leader, the report shows.


(click here to download Research Fronts 2020 report)

(click here to download Research Fronts 2020: Active Fields, Leading Countries)