The state of scientific research in China is a favorite topic of conversation in the scientific community, especially as the number of publications from China has been increasing, says In the Pipeline's Derek Lowe. But on closer inspection, many of these papers "are junk," he adds, and are published in journals that have no impact whatsoever. The last few years have also shown that China may soon be the world leader in patent applications, Lowe says, but even that notion is causing some to scoff. The Wall Street Journal's Anil Gupta and Haiyan Wang say that most of these filings also leave something to be desired. "But more than 95 percent of the Chinese applications were filed domestically with the State Intellectual Property Office — and the vast majority cover 'innovations' that make only tiny changes on existing designs," they write. "A better measure is to look at innovations that are recognized outside China — at patent filings or grants to China-origin inventions by the world's leading patent offices, the US, the EU and Japan. On this score, China is way behind." This may change with time, but even that is uncertain as funding of research in China has had some problems lately, Lowe says. "China could end up as the biggest scientific and technological powerhouse the world has ever seen — or it could end up never living up to its potential and wasting vast resources on cargo-cult theatrics," he adds. "It's way too early to say. But if many of those Chinese patents are just being written because someone's figured out that the way to get money and prestige is to file patents — never mind if they're good for anything — then that's not a good sign."
Too Good to be True?
Aug 09, 2011