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Home >> Life
UPDATED: 09:45, April 12, 2006
Chinese science journals go global
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Peng Zhaohui, president of Shenzhen Sibiono Genetech Co Ltd, is accustomed to explaining basic data from his Gendicine the world's first commercialized gene therapy to foreign scientists.

"Although much of our research and clinical data has been published domestically, most of it is inaccessible to foreign researchers," said Peng.

As a result, the significant scientific breakthrough has been greeted with indifference or suspicion by many foreign researchers, according to a recent article in the UK-based journal Nature Reviews Drug Discovery.

Peng's regret is rather common among Chinese researchers, whose rapidly increasing scientific findings have largely been neglected by the Western science community, due to the inaccessibility of their papers to the Western world.

Various attempts have been made to promote Chinese research, such as publishing English versions of the Chinese journals, establishing international reviewers' boards, distributing the Chinese journals internationally.

The most recent move towards promotion took place late last month. Under a package deal, China's 34 leading English science journals were collected into ScienceDirect, an online academic database operated by the Amsterdam-based publishing giant Elsevier.

Since March, ScienceDirect's 10 million subscribers worldwide will be able to easily read Chinese papers through the online database.

According to statistics from the Beijing-based Institute of Science and Technology Information, the citation rate of science and technology papers written by Chinese researchers and enlisted in major international citation systems have been ranked as fifth in the world since 2002.

But in terms of the average citation rate of each paper, China is ranked 124th in the world.

"Because of the language barrier, many of their papers are unavailable to foreign readers," said Xiao Hong, assistant president of Beijing-based Science Press.

Chen Tongbin, a leading biologist with the Institute of Geographical Sciences and Natural Resources Research under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), said the international science community also suffered greatly from a lack of access to Chinese research results.

"In the field of life sciences, some of our studies are highly original. Others are quite unique due to China's particular natural and genetic situation," Chen said.

The low citation rate also harms China's science journals.

"Many leading Chinese scientists have their research results published in Science or Nature magazines because these foreign journals have a greater impact," he said. "As a result, the Chinese journals have fewer sources of high quality papers."

China's science publishers have been struggling for years to change the situation, said Xiao.

In the late 1990s, Beijing-based Acta Botanica Sinica, or the Chinese Journal of Botany, set up an academic board involving famous overseas Chinese scientists, to steer the journal's development and attract good papers.

"We made the revolutionary decision to shift our Chinese version to an English version," said He Ping, editor of the Journal of Integrative Plant Biology.

"We assumed most researchers in our fields have a good knowledge of English, as this is the only way they could be informed of the advances in these fields," said Zhang Xin, an editor of Genomics, Proteomics & Bioinformatics, an English language journal from the Beijing Genomics Institute, CAS.

The Ministry of Science and Technology is co-ordinating with other governmental institutions to support some of the country's 4,900 scientific journals with new funds, according to Wu Boer, director of the ministry's Department of Facilities and Financial Support, in an earlier interview with China Daily.

The amount of money hasn't been announced but is intended to help the journals improve their editorial and print quality. These journals will be encouraged to be published in English.

Chinese journals are also seeking alliances with international publishers, such as the one with Elsevier.

According to Paul Evans, vice-president of Elsevier Science and Technology China, there will be a Chinese collection in the database, which will be freely accessible in 2006 but will only be open to subscribers after 2007.

Elsevier also signed deals with six Chinese language science journals to publish their papers in English for ScienceDirect. Elsevier will offer a free English polishing service to the Chinese authors.

Before the package deal with Elsevier, smaller deals between Chinese journals and UK-based Blackwell Publishing and German-based Springer, were reached.

As more Chinese science journals shift to English, the problem of language becomes apparent.

"Many scientists are still unable to write in English, and others, while able to write in English, may spend too much time on this," said Chen.

"It is unquestionable that the dominance of English will limit the spread of scientific information among domestic researchers," he said.

"If all Chinese researchers are encouraged to submit their papers to the leading journals in English, the middle and small-level domestic ones could suffer," said Wang Li, editor-in-chief of the Changchun-based Journal of Jilin University.

Source:China Daily

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