China, a “developing country” in the 21th century, has been one of the superpowers of science and technology for the last 30 years. China’s scintific and technological advancement will lead to its rapid economic development. According to Scopus records, China has increased the number of publications in science, mathematics and computer science to from 200,000 to 1.650.000 between 1986 and 2016 (Chart1). The citation rate of Chinies scientists have reached 23% in all countries. If Chinese publications were included, this figure would have reached 37%.

Starting in 1995, China’s central government carried out a series of programs aimed at spending billions of dollars to raise China’s top universities to world standards. First, a package application was launched to raise 100 universities to the level of the western universities of the 21st century. In 2015, a second program focused on designated departments within these institutions.

In 1900, resistance against foreigners, especially Christians, began in Beijing. This movement, known as the “Boxer Rebellion” has resulted in China’s payment to the United States as compensation. Tsinghua University was founded in 1911 with these funds. Today, this university is a source of pride for China through science, technology and engineering research. According to Scopus records, this university is number one, among the most cited 15 universities in the world; also SEVEN of them are Chinese, which is an evidence of the rapid rise of the country in science and technology.

Money as a lever provides universities with the opportunity to plan for top class research intriguing academicians to sophisticated research which can yield to more powerful findings. Universities can open up new horizons for their academicians within the framework of their monetary powers. About 30 years ago in China, universities have started to give scholarships to their academicians in return for their published papers in certain global science magazines-journals. Today, these awards have reached very high amounts. A recent example is US $ 165,000 scholarship awarded for a publication in the “Nature” journal which is 20 times as the annual salary of an academic in China. These monetary awards have had a direct impact on the rise of the rate of Chinese-cited papers from 4% in 2000 to 19% in 2016.

Generally, PhD studies are prominent in research. Tsinghua University believes in the importance of the number in academic achievement and gives the opportunity to many PhD students. In 2017, 1,385 candidate have completed their thesis at this university. In the same year, only 645 PhD students have graduated from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology).

With the support of the state in recent years, Chinese universities have benefited from reverse brain drain. Universities like Tsinghua may not provide the facilities and opportunities of a western university. But the idealist scientists, who want to raise their children in their homeland, with national pride will always emerge. As yearly salaries were raised to the six-digits, China has benefited the most from this trend. For ample, Tsinghua University transferred Qian Yingyi, a scientist who has worked at universities such as Columbia, Yale, Harvard, Stanford and Berkeley, who has focused to the new horizons of innovation. Qian put into practice an American-style personnel system with no personal relations or political impositions, focusing on “a six-year research period, followed by a performance evaluation, based on publications, followed by a continuous job offer or put an end to the task”. The results were astonishing. The step up of Tsinghua University in the ranking of Chinese mathematics-computer-research league table was unexpected. In 2006-09, the university was ranked 66th and it was number one in the last year!

In 2012, the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen has invited He Jiankui, one of their former physic students back, after his completion of a PhD in Physics at Rice University in Texas. And postdoctoral research at Stanford University focused on gene-genome sequences. His father described Jiankui’s return to his country with a short sentence: “He found the Chinese scientific research is weak and he wants to improve it!”. And he has indeed! Jianku has enabled the birth of twin babies with genome editing (not GMO)—the first gene editing result in human medicine in the world. CRISPR/Cas method has been used to regulate the genes of twin babies to be resistant to HIV , . This method is used in the plant world recent years. In the number of researches, conducted in this field, China is also the leading one (541). It is followed by USA (387), Japan (819) and Germany .

All nations should look to China as an example when it comes to attracting talented, enthusiastic and new research teams and replacing their mediocre performers who are a drain to the system with this new blood. Such a system that is divorced from personal agendas and political impositions is the only way to move our universes up in world rankings.

Nazimi Açıkgöz

Note: This paper has been summarized from a Turkish blog:

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