On a global scale, the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) collaborates with other world-leading institutions. But dig down to the regional level, and there is growing diversity in its collaborators.

When looking at CAS’s collaborators, a trend towards diversification emerges. As well as emphasizing collaborations in general, CAS is also broadening its network, forging partnerships in previously under-reached regions as well as growing multinational partnerships.

CAS's collaborators are largely concentrated in the developed regions of the world. Half of CAS’s international papers involve at least one researcher in North America, while more than one-third are co-authored with Europe-based researchers, primarily in western or northern Europe. Researchers in Asia — primarily eastern Asia, including Japan and South Korea — contribute to one-quarter of international papers. Over the past 10 years, less than 4 percent of CAS’s international papers have involved researchers from Africa, with this total split fairly evenly between the northern and sub-Saharan regions.

However, patterns of collaboration have changed over the past decade. Co-authorship with researchers based in northern Africa is increasing at a CAGR of 56 percent, the fastest growth rate for any region. This is possibly because of its low base value. But if the growth rate continues, within five years CAS will be producing more papers with researchers from northern Africa than from Latin America, and potentially even from eastern Europe (including Russia). These changes are probably intentional. In line with China’s Belt and Road Initiative, CAS has launched several projects to connect countries that lack good research infrastructure and to improve cooperation, in the hope of increasing their contribution to scientific research.

In every research field, the greatest proportion of co-authors on CAS’s international papers were based in North America, amounting to more than 40 percent of all cases. Co-authors from this region, particularly the US, appeared on roughly the same proportion of CAS’s papers across broad research fields. Often, collaborations are driven by personal relationships. Many CAS researchers have experience in the US, so co-authorship with former colleagues or supervisors is probably a strong driver of these results.

The influence of the US is most evident in medical science papers, where the majority of CAS’s international output involves at least one US-based researcher. This is not surprising given the US’s leading position in the medical sciences. Most of the other regions’ collaborations with CAS focus on the physical sciences.


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