China Joins the WorldWideScience Alliance: Why This is Important

by Brian Hitson on Wed, Oct 29, 2008

On October 14, OSTI announced that the People's Republic of China had joined the WorldWideScience Alliance. The press release making the announcement described, and hinted at, the importance of China's contribution:

China, a major producer of journals and conference proceedings, is offering searches of key Chinese English-language scientific literature through The Chinese resource enables searching of over 6,000 journals., the global science gateway managed by the WorldWideScience Alliance, is intended to enhance scientific communication in order to accelerate international scientific progress by serving as a single, sophisticated point of access for diverse scientific resources and expertise from nations around the world.


The Importance of China's Participation

The addition of China is a notable milestone for a number of reasons.

China is a major global contributor to scientific knowledge. Thomson Reuters makes the point clearly:

According to citation analysis based on data from Web of Science, China is ranked second in the world by number of scientific papers published in 2007. Scientific's World IP Today Report on Global Patent Activity 2007 reported that China almost doubled its volume of patents from 2003 to 2007, and looks set to become a strong rival to Japan and the United States in years to come.

China is an emerging science superpower.

James Wilsdon and James Keeley, in China: The next science superpower?, have this to say:

Since 1999, China's spending on research and development (R&D) has increased by more than 20 per cent each year. In 2005, it reached 1.3 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), up from 0.7 per cent in 1998. In December 2006, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) surprised policy-makers by announcing that China had moved ahead of Japan for the first time, to become the world's second highest R&D investor after the US.

China's participation greatly increases the percentage of the world's population covered in the searches of The population of China, at nearly 1.3 billion, is nearly 20 percent of the world's population. With China represented in the Alliance and participating in, science produced by 73% of the world's population is now covered.

China's contribution helps to increase the visibility of Chinese publications. Historically, Chinese publications have a low rate of citation.

A Comparison between the China Scientific and Technical Papers and Citations Database and the Science Citation Index in terms of journal hierarchies and inter-journal citation relations tells the story:

With the continuous development of the Chinese economy, the scientific production of China is also experiencing notable growth. Take scientific publications as an example: the percentage of the world share of Chinese publications increased exponentially during the period 1993-2004 (Jin & Rousseau, 2004; Zhou & Leydesdorff, 2006). This increase advanced China's  position from the 17th in 1993 to the 5th in 2004 (ISTIC, 1998). However, the number of citations received by Chinese publications is low. In 2004, China ranked only the 14th on this indicator (ISTIC, 2005). Although this is a big advancement compared to the 18th position in 2003, the performance of China in terms of publications and citations is not yet compatible.

Inclusion of one of their key scientific resources will increase exposure to Chinese research reports and should lead to a higher citation rate.

Incorporating the Chinese resource serves as a model for cooperation to overcome language and integration issues. The Chinese character set is challenging for Western-oriented software to integrate. Communication with the Institute of Scientific and Technical Information of China (ISTIC), in both English and in Chinese, was key to overcoming not only the character set challenges but other technical challenges as well.

How China Came to Join the Alliance

The story of how China joined the Alliance speaks to the importance of personal relationships. China's Deputy Director of ISTIC was attending ICSTI's annual conference in June of this year. (ICSTI is the International Council for Scientific and Technical Information - primary sponsor of the WorldWideScience Alliance.) At this year's annual conference, in a special ceremony, the WorldWideScience Alliance was formed. At the conference, Richard Boulderstone, Director, e-Strategy and Information Systems at the British Library and Chairman of the WorldWideScience Alliance Executive Board, approached the Deputy Director of ISTIC. He asked if China would join and contribute a source. He followed up with a letter, translated into Chinese. The Deputy Director sincerely appreciated receiving the invitation in his native language. Recognizing the mutual benefits of sharing scientific knowledge, China quickly decided to join. ISTIC, a component of the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology, represents China in the Alliance.

The Explosive Growth of

China's participation in the WorldWideScience Alliance fuels the rapid growth of On June 22, 2007, The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the British Library, along with eight other participating countries, launched Consider these figures:

  • When first introduced, included only 8 countries, 15 databases and portals, and it represented roughly 12% of the world's population.

  • A year later, when the Alliance was formally established, on June 12, 2008, the number of member countries had increased more than five-fold, to 44.

  • The 38 nations that were represented in the Alliance's founding document, plus 6 others, contributed 32 databases and portals, and represented roughly 53% of the world's population.

  • Today (October 2008), 55 countries contribute 49 databases and portals and represents approximately 73% of the world's population.

  • Sixteen months ago, when launched, it provided searchable access to roughly 200 million pages of science content; today that number is nearly twice that at 375 million pages.

By any metric, is growing at a powerful rate.


What's next for

The future of holds exciting possibilities, including the following:

  • More content and wider coverage by member countries

  • A goal of providing access to half a billion pages of scientific information

  • Ideally, participation in the Alliance by Russia, Italy, Singapore, countries from the Middle East, and additional countries from the developing world.

  • Translation services are under consideration

We are excited about's past and promising future. We look forward to China being active in the WorldWideScience Alliance, and we see the addition of China's science output to the world stage, through, as a huge leap forward.


Brian Hitson, OSTI Associate Director for Administration & Information Services

Sol Lederman, OSTI Consultant

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Thank you for another essential article. Where else could anyone get that kind of information in such a complete way of writing? I have a presentation incoming week, and I am on the lookout for such information.

About the Author

Brian Hitson's picture
Brian Hitson
Director, U.S. DOE Office of Scientific and Technical Information