Within a relatively few years, China has become an economic powerhouse. As of this year, China has surpassed Japan as the second-largest economy in the world — first place is still reserved for the United States . . . for now.
Along with its economic growth, China has also been investing heavily in R&D, and the result is a massive increase in scientific article production.
Data tables, like those appearing in the “2010 UNESCO Science Report,” provide adequate summaries of what is taking place in the world of science, but the data, printed in a static PDF, doesn’t really capture the dynamics of what has been taking place in the last few years.
Inspired by Hans Rosling’s visual relationship between income and lifespan, I create a bubble plot that compares publication output with a country’s economic status.
Publication data to create the bubble plot were derived from SCImago Journal & Country Rank while economic data came from the World Bank. The data sources were merged and plotted in JMP statistical software.
If you can view Adobe Flash files (unfortunately, I can’t publish Flash on the Scholarly Kitchen currently), you can watch the data in motion here. Remember to spend some time playing with the controls at the bottom.
To comprehend how China and a few other countries have changed over the last decade, the two images below should make the point. The size of the bubbles reflect the number of publications, and the countries have been coded to reflect their region (N. America=mustard; Asia=red; Green=W. Europe; Blue=E. Europe).
In 1996, science publishing was dominated by the United States, and collectively by wealthy countries that invested a lot in R&D and higher-education (Japan, UK, Germany, France, Spain, Canada, Italy, etc.). Note the position of three Asiatic countries (India, China and South Korea — all in red), and Brazil (in orange).
The United States is still big, rich and productive, but look at how China, India, Brazil and S. Korea have changed. All are in the midst of experiencing great economic and scientific growth. If your browser can support Flash, watch the movie — it is worth a thousand static figures.
(Thanks to Carlos Olmeda-Gómez from the SCImago Research Group.)