|Phosphorene is a graphene-like material that is a hot research topic, according to a new study. (Courtesy: Robert Brook/Science Photo Library)|
China is performing "outstanding" research in a number of emerging scientific topics, putting the country's output on a par with the UK but still behind the US. That is the conclusion of a new study by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and the scientific data company Clarivate Analytics. The Research Fronts 2016 annual report identifies 100 "hot" and 80 "emerging" research areas based on citation analysis of papers published in 2015.
The research areas – divided in various fields of science – reflect global interest in specific topics that have resulted in "core" journal articles. These articles are defined by an algorithm that takes into account, among other things, the time of publication and how frequently an article is cited by other papers in the same area. In physics, for instance, the hottest research pursuits last year included the detection of dark matter and experiments that measure neutrino oscillations. Research into properties and applications of black phosphorus – a 2D material also called phosphorene because of its similarity to graphene – was also identified. The study of topological materials called Weyl semimetals was also named as a hot topic in physics.
Six countries – China, France, Germany, Japan, UK and US – made the greatest contributions in the 180 research areas, according to the report. The US retained its leadership, with its researchers publishing core papers in 152 of the 180 areas, ranging from the hunt for dark matter to the health impact of electronic cigarettes. The UK, meanwhile, contributed core papers in 90 research topics, covering more areas than China's 68. However, China had top-cited papers among the core papers in 30 research areas, which is more than twice that of the UK. "China has a significant gap with the US, and fierce competition with the UK," the report says, adding it was likely that China would soon overtake the UK.
Physics World: China forges ahead in global research
Binglin Chen is a science writer based in Beijing