China's rise in academic publishing plays vital role in fostering robust scientific communication: webinar
Published: Sep 08, 2023 08:18 PM
CEO of AIP Publishing Alexandra Vance

CEO of AIP Publishing Alexandra Vance

What is the future prospect of international cooperation in science and technology? What's the reason behind China's rapid pace of becoming the largest contributor of research in major science journals? In a webinar held in Beijing on Thursday, CEO of AIP Publishing Alexandra Vance (Vance), and Editor-in-Chief of Physics of Fluids Alan Jeffrey Giacomin (Giacomin), shared their views with Chinese media on topics such as how to better help remove barriers for global cooperation and what are the routines to help amplify the impact of the Chinese scholarly community from the perspective of academic publishing. 

Q: What are the important roles of academic publishing and scientific development and how can AIP contribute to the innovation of science and technology in China? 

Vance: Academic publishing plays a pivotal role in fostering robust scientific communication between China and the world. It serves as a bridge through which valuable research findings, innovative ideas and intellectual events can be shared, disseminated and accessed by global audience. This range of information exchange not only facilitates the flow of knowledge across geographical boundaries, it also encourages vital collaboration and enriches the scientific community with diverse perspectives, methodologies, and insights. 

Through academic publishing, Chinese researchers can share their groundbreaking discoveries to the broader international scientific community, gaining recognition for their contributions and expanding their impact. Additionally, the world benefits from access to China's rapidly advancing research landscape, which covers an increasingly wide spectrum of disciplines, particularly in the business of science areas. 

This mutual beneficial exchange creates more comprehensive understanding of scientific advancements in cross-cultural collaboration and ultimately drives the progress of human knowledge with dissemination of research papers in journals, books, as scholarly publishing bridges the gap between different languages, academic traditions, research practices and promotes a cohesive global network of scholars.

It helps in breaking down barriers, promoting transparency and fostering open dialogues. Academic publishing contributes to the creation of a more interconnected and united scientific community working collaboratively to address some of the world's most pressing challenges. In this era of digital communication, academic publishing leverages online platforms, open access initiatives, and innovation. 

Q: China has become the largest contributor of research in major science journals as a top contributor in the world for the first time in 2022. How do you think China has risen to such a position in a short period of time? 

Vance: I think the first thing we can start with is the global landscape for physical sciences, published in specific to China over the past decade. Published papers by Chinese scholars in the fields of physical sciences have experienced significant growth both in quality and quantity. And this reflects China's increasing status as a major contributor in this area. Worldwide, the compound annual growth rate for physical science publications during the period from 2013 to 2022 was 8.3%. In physical science research output in China, this rate was impressively at 15%. Within the AIP Publishing portfolio, we have observed a remarkable 35% increase in publications authored by Chinese researchers over the past decade. This is a testament of the commitment to research and development, increased funding and the expansion of research and infrastructure in China. 

Chinese scholars are now covering a wide range of research topics within the physical sciences. While traditional areas like condensed matter, physics, optics, and material science remain strong emerging fields, emerging fields such as quantum information, nanotechnology and renewable energy have also gained significant attention. Alongside quantitative growth, the overall quality of research papers from China has improved. More papers are appearing in reputable international journals with higher impact factors and greater recognition within the scientific community. This elevation in quality is crucial for establishing China's position as a hub for cutting-edge research, fostering international collaborations and driving innovation. 

Editor-in-Chief of Physics of Fluids Alan Jeffrey Giacomin (right), discusses with a colleague at APS March Meeting in 2023

Editor-in-Chief of Physics of Fluids Alan Jeffrey Giacomin (right) discusses with a colleague at APS March Meeting in 2023

Q: Why have China's researchers become prolific and better?

Giacomin: During my work in Physics of Fluids over the past seven years, China has advanced in fluid mechanics research and is accelerating the pace. I've got to watch Chinese scholars become leading contributors to Physics of Fluids. The quality of their research has improved our journal from an impact factor of two to above four. 

According to my observation, China is doing very well in investment in fluid mechanics research. The professors receiving the funding are spending the money wisely, which is also equally important. The improvement of language level has also played a great role in China's scientific research and development. 

Q: China nowadays is developing its own science and technology. How can it increase its global collaboration? 

Vance: I think there are numerous ways that China can increase its global collaboration with the world. Journals are one of those routes. Also, some of the partnerships that were working have been highly productive and vital to building the reputation for Chinese researchers and Chinese organizations that are dedicated to research. We are vitally focused on the priorities of all the researchers. And we're quite dedicated to partnerships. One of the things we're excited to talk about is the success of some of the partnerships that we have made with organizations in China that have increased submissions, publications, downloads, citations, and impact factor.  

In 2019, we partnered with the Chinese Academy of Engineering Physics to publish their open access title, Matter and Radiation at Extremes. Since this partnership began we've helped expand the global footprint publication by increasing submissions and full text downloads by more than 200%. 

This year, Nanotechnology and Precision Engineering, which we co-publish with Tianjin University received its first impact factor. We were also excited to announce a partnership with a newly established journal, which has received the prestigious honor of being selected as a high potential new journal within the 2022 Excellence Action plan for China STM Journals. 

Through partnership, we aim to leverage collective expertise, resources, and dedication, further amplify the international impacts of these journals. We want to foster meaningful, academic contributions and contribute to the advancement of scientific knowledge within the Chinese scientific community and beyond. We see this as a global collaborative opportunity and the scientific community is truly global. So we are here to support Chinese researchers and the institutions. 

Q: Chinese scholars attach great importance to publishing articles in top journals. What do you think is the significance of publishing articles in such journals?

Giacomin: First of all, I'm Canadian. I live in Canada. Physics of Fluid is a worldwide journal. China has become the leading contributor to Physics of Fluid today. The publishing house of Physics of Fluid may be located in the US, but it also has offices in Beijing. Physics of Fluid belongs to the world. That is largely because of the leading role that China is playing. Now don't get me wrong. Every nation on Earth will publish more papers this year in Physics of Fluid than it ever has before. China is the leader, but many are also following behind it. That is why this year we will publish more than 3,000 papers. 

If you look at Physics of Fluids, it looks more Chinese than any other journal. The Chinese scholars have their names reflected in both native script and in English and we're very proud of this. It gives a new look and feel to the scientific literature that AIP Publishing is pioneering and that has become very popular amongst my Chinese authors.

We see the journals and the research exercises and the community as truly global. So for us, what we are speaking about is the impact of the authors, researchers, wherever they publish. We recognize the increased contributions from the Chinese research community and we are willing to serve and accelerate the progress for researchers in China and everywhere else. That is our priority. 

Q: What's your take on the future between China and the US in terms of technology cooperation? And to what extent do you believe the political atmosphere will influence the scientific cooperation in the future between the two countries? 

Vance: We firmly believe that science is inherently cooperative. It is a cooperative endeavor. We support international collaboration and we support frameworks such as the US-China science and technology agreement and agreements that support bilateral and multilateral cooperation. We stand in and support the cooperation among scientists. And scientific collaboration is a very peaceful and positive exercise that creates mutual understanding. And from this lens, we are optimistic. 

Giacomin: I'm not an expert on politics. I'm afraid I cannot offer an expert opinion on that. Many of our most important contributions to physics come from people who were born in China, young students who then come to North America or to other Western nations to do their PhD and social studies. So it would be sad if that were to decrease. I do know that Physics of Fluid stands ready to help all authors publish their good works. 

Q: How can AIP help amplify the impact of Chinese scholars?  

Vance: We are removing barriers to help amplify the impact of the Chinese scholarly community as part of the global community in a continual way. So the increase in the number of Chinese editors and the Editor-in-Chief for AIP journals is a very positive trend reflecting the growing influence and contribution of the Chinese scientific community to the global landscape. 

It not only highlights the expertise of Chinese researchers. It enhances the diversity of perspectives, including in these editorial processes and that ultimately enriches the quality and scope. At the terms, it also promotes cross-cultural collaboration and knowledge exchange. And this is where we see ourselves playing a role in fostering a more inclusive and interconnected community. 

Giacomin: When a nation collaborates with other nations, it can produce some unique research results, which Physics of Fluids will cherish. And 30% of our publications are international collaborations. Some are with China, some are between China and the West. It would be sad that those collaborations decrease. And yet we will continue to cherish all of the Chinese contributions to Physics of Fluids. 

Q: What's the influence of AI in scientific research and academic publishing? 

Vance: I think we want to get into those tools. I did want to note that we've taken this step of introducing a new open access journal itself, APL Machine Learning last year. That is a really interesting evolution for us. That journal serves as a platform for groundbreaking research that delves into the synergies between machine learning and AI and the traditional as scientific disciplines. The journal features research addressing how machine learning and AI can aid physicists, material scientists, engineers, chemists, and biologists in advancing scientific discovery. It also examines applied physics for machine learning, looking at ways in which researchers are applying their skills from traditional disciplines to design better materials, devices and computing technologies to improve machine learning itself. 

In addition to that, what we see is that the influence of AI on academic publishing occurs in the areas of peer review assistance and automated editing. And we see the evolution of a lot of processes occurring. Discussion around the use of ChatGPT and other AI-based large language models has grown quickly over the past few months. Scholarly communications have not been immune to the impact of these AI tools, and the publishing industry is currently working to understand and implement policies for its fair use. AIP Publishing has updated its Author Policies and Ethics page to reflect our current guidance for the use of ChatGPT and similar tools in our publications.

Giacomin: Well, I'm not just an editor. I'm an active researcher and author. I have played with ChatGPT. And I have not found it useful for my own writing or for my students' writing. But as an editor, AIP Publishing was well ahead of its time when it introduced a writing service. The enemy of scientific publication is unclear writing and AIP Publishing played a leadership role here when it realized that reviewers should not receive unclear writing, that such a submission is unlikely to clear peer review. So they offer a special service. It's a contextually intelligent, real person, a physicist who helps the authors improve the clarity of their writing. And then, once the writing is corrected and clear enough, then we send it out for peer review. My own impression is that these ChatGPT writing tools are nowhere near as good as our existing writing service. Someday they may be useful.