Tracking the Current Rise of Chinese Pharmaceutical Bionanotechnology

Tim Lenoir, Patrick Herron


Background: The Context and Purpose of the Study

Over the last decade China has emerged as a major producer of scientific publications, currently ranking second behind the US. During that time Chinese strategic policy initiatives have placed indigenous innovation at the heart of its economy while focusing internal R&D investments and the attraction of foreign investment in nanotechnology as one of their four top areas. China’s scientific research publication and nanotechnology research publication production has reached a rank of second in the world, behind only the US. Despite these impressive gains, some scholars argue that the quality of Chinese nanotech research is inferior to US research quality due to lower overall times cited rates, suggesting that the US is still the world leader. We combine citation analysis, text mining, mapping, and data visualization to gauge the development and application of nanotechnology in China, particularly in biopharmananotechnology, and to measure the impact of Chinese policy on nanotechnology research production.

Results, the main findings
Our text mining-based methods provide results that counter existing claims about Chinese nanotechnology research quality. Due in large part to its strategic innovation policy, China’s output of nanotechnology publications is on pace to surpass US production in or around 2012.A closer look at Chinese nanotechnology research literature reveals a large increase in research activity in China’s biopharmananotechnology research since the implementation in January, 2006 of China’s Medium & Long Term Scientific and Technological Development Plan Guidelines for the period 2006-2020 (“MLP”).

Since the implementation of the MLP, China has enjoyed a great deal of success producing bionano research findings while attracting a great deal of foreign investment from pharmaceutical corporations setting up advanced drug discovery operations. Given the combination of current scientific production growth as well as economic growth, a relatively low scientific capacity, and the ability of its policy to enhance such trends, China is in some sense already the new world leader in nanotechnology. Further, the Chinese national innovation system may be the new standard by which other national S&T policies should be measured.

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