China growing fast in highly cited researchers list

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Clarivate Plc has unveiled its 2021 list of Highly Cited Researchers. The methodology that determines the company's 'who’s who' of influential researchers draws on the data and analysis performed by bibliometric experts and data scientists at the Institute for Scientific Information.

The annual list identifies 6,600 researchers from across the globe who demonstrated significant influence in their chosen field or fields through the publication of multiple highly cited papers during the last decade. The Highly Cited Researchers’ names are drawn from the publications that rank in the top one per cent by citations for field and publication year in the Web of Science citation index, and the list identifies the research institutions and countries where they are based.

The key findings for 2021 show:

  • 6,602 researchers from more than 70 countries and regions have been recognised this year – 3,774 in specific fields and 2,828 for cross-field impact;
  • The United States is the institutional home for 2,622 of the Highly Cited Researchers in 2021, which amounts to 39.7 per cent, down from 43.3 per cent in 2018. While there has been a decline in the number of U.S.-based Highly Cited Researchers, there can be no doubt that the U.S. still leads the world in research influence. Of all papers indexed in the Web of Science for 2010 to 2020 the percentage with a U.S.-based author was 24.7 per cent;
  • Mainland China is second this year, with 935 Highly Cited Researchers, or 14.2 per cent, up from 7.9 per cent in 2018. In four years, Mainland China has nearly doubled its share of the Highly Cited Researchers population;
  • The United Kingdom, with 492 researchers or 7.5 per cent, comes in third. This is a particularly high number of researchers at the top of their fields in terms of citation impact, given that the United Kingdom has a population 1/5 the size of the United States and 1/20 the size of Mainland China;
  • Australia has narrowly overtaken Germany at fourth, with 332 researchers, and the Netherlands is sixth, with 207 researchers – remarkable for countries of 25 million and 17 million, respectively, versus Germany’s 83 million. They also place above Canada, France, Spain and Switzerland in the top 10;
  • Harvard University, home to 214 researchers, is once again the institution with the highest concentration of Highly Cited Researchers in the world.
  • Hong Kong has increased its number to 79 from 60 last year, an impressive achievement, partly due to a dramatic increase in Highly Cited Researchers from the University of Hong Kong, which more than doubled its number of Highly Cited Researchers from 14 to 33 from 2020 to 2021.
  • For the first time, researchers from BangladeshKuwaitMauritiusMorocco and the Republic of Georgia are included on the list this year.

Naturally, mainland China’s gain means losses elsewhere. There is a 1.8 per cent loss in Highly Cited Researchers for the United States since last year and 3.6 per cent since 2018. This contrasts with an increase of 6.3 per cent for mainland China since 2018. The United Kingdom exhibits a decline of 0.5 per cent since last year and 1.5 per cent since 2018. Germany has lost 0.9 per cent share since 2018.

David Pendlebury, senior citation analyst at the Institute for Scientific Information, said: 'The headline story is one of sizeable gains for mainland China and a decline for the United States, particularly when you look at the trends over the last four years, which reflect a transformational rebalancing of scientific and scholarly contributions at the top level through the globalization of the research enterprise.'