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Chinese universities publishing more English-language academic journals to gain wider audience

Ever been frustrated by all the papers you’re unable to understand because they were written in a foreign language and there weren’t any translations available?

As one of the most research-intensive countries globally, China produces “about one-fifth of the world’s most-cited papers”, and its academic journal market is quickly expanding.

In an effort to make their research more accessible, Chinese universities and publishers have increased the number of English-language journals.

A recent market survey of China’s academic journal industry found that “new English journals are springing up like mushrooms”, with up to 20 new English-language journals being funded each year, reported Times Higher Education.

The report, which was published last week by the UK-based Publishers Association, noted that the trend was likely driven by the “desire for international impact”, as part of the government’s push to make the country a scientific powerhouse.

The report’s authors, Chu Xiaoying, vice general manager of publisher Charlesworth China, and international publishing consultant Professor Paul Richardson, praised the Chinese government for its recognition of “the need to fund high-level research and research publications on the global stage” and wanting research “to become more ‘blue sky’ and innovative.”

However, they also found that the government had problems with knowing when to be more hands-off, saying: “Funding tends to be centralized and bureaucratic and to rely on mechanistic procedures in terms of evaluating quality and impact.

“There is a heavy-handed superstructure of ideological control and a range of regulations to foreign publishing or Internet presence in China. This conflict between the unleashing of Chinese creativity and the urge to retain control has still to be resolved.”

Currently, the Chinese journals market consists of four categories: imported subscriptions mainly in English; locally reprinted or Chinese editions of international journals; locally published journals in English; and locally published journals in Mandarin.

While the number of journals in non-native languages only make up around 3 percent of the country’s overall 10,000 journals, Chu and Richardson said there was an increasing number of “high-impact” titles, noting that 185 Chinese English-language journals appear in Thomson Reuters’ 2016 Journal Citation Report (an annual list of top-ranking scholarly publications) – up from 162 in 2013.

In a news release, the association provided the report’s highlights:

  • China spends more than 2 percent of its GDP on research and development, challenging the USA in purchasing power parity terms and putting it ahead of the EU.
  • The Chinese journal market is worth around 24 billion yuan (approximately US$3.6 billion) with more than 2.1 billion yuan (US$3 million) imported foreign journals and digital publications.
  • There is some evidence of bias against Chinese research outcomes in the international journals market, with a higher than average rate of rejection.
  • There is strong government support for the publication of new journals in English in China to raise China’s international profile.

Image via Unsplash

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