, Volume 95, Issue 3, pp 1031–1050 | Cite as

The changing dynamics in citation index publication position China in a race with the USA for global leadership

  • Juana Paul Moiwo
  • Fulu Tao


Along with China’s economic emergence is a controversy over the quality and international visibility of citation index publications. This study uses bibliometric statistics to shed further light on the global landscape of citation index publications with special focus on China and the USA. The analysis explores 31 years of the TRS (Thomson Reuters Scientific) database, spanning the 1980–2010 period. Based on this study, the USA maintains global dominance for both WOK (Web of Knowledge) and WOS (Web of Science) TRS publications. Although China ranks a distant second for WOK, it lags behind five other nations for WOS publications. China’s scientific base needs further restructuring for greater global visibility. Emerging economies such as China, India, Brazil and South Africa are fast rising in the global ranks for WOK/WOS publications. China may already be leading the world in some publication attributes, although it could take several more decades to catch up with the USA in others. Normalizations of the publications with population, PTE (population with tertiary education) and GDP (gross domestic product) put small/low-population countries in the global lead. However, countries such as Canada, Greenland, Iceland and Sweden still rank high for most of these publication attributes. Furthermore, WOS per WOK analysis shows that small and/or economically weak countries place greater emphasis on WOS publications. This is particularly visible for countries in Africa and South America. Despite the addition of a large number of indigenous Chinese journals to the TRS database, prediction analysis suggests that China’s desire to surpass the USA could be delayed for several decades. In the race for the next-generation scientific superpower, however, China not only needs to sustain substantial investments in research and development, but also requires restructuring of its research industry. This is especially critical for data readiness, availability and accessibility to the scientific community, and radical implementations of research recommendations.


Bibliometric analysis Web of Knowledge Web of Science Citation index publication Normalized publication 



This study is supported by the China-Africa Science and Technology Partnership Program (CASTEP). We are thankful for the incredible inputs of the anonymous reviewers and editors by way of insightful comments and suggestions.

Supplementary material

11192_2012_846_MOESM1_ESM.doc (710 kb)
Online Appendix (DOC 710 kb)


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Copyright information

© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, Hungary 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Geographical Sciences and Natural Resources ResearchChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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