These guys have surveyed the financial incentives offered by the top 100 universities in China and mined that data for interesting trends. They say that cash-per-publication incentives are common and that scientists who publish in the top Western journals can earn in excess of $100,000 per paper. What’s more, there are already worrying signs that these financial rewards are skewing the process of science in China.

China has well over 1,000 universities. But in the 1990s it began a program called Project 211 to turn 100 of them into world-class institutions. “Eventually, 116 universities were admitted to Project 211, forming an elite group of universities occupying 70% of national research funding and supervising 80% of doctoral students,” say Wei and co.


Was reading this and then I also read the latest report that puts China in the number one position, but I am wondering if the metrics are a good indication given that the Chinese government incentivize people to game the system to get more citations.

China versus the U.S.: According to the report, 61% of citations of Chinese papers were by Chinese researchers, while only 29% of citations of U.S. papers were by American researchers.


This quote might indicate that there's a kernel of truth when people say that Chinese scientific ranking might be overblown because they cite between themselves a lot more than American researchers.


2 Answers 2


It may be possible to boost the citation index a little bit by selectively citing the works of the own country, but there are some problems with this:

  • Both the article to cite and the article that is citing it must be published in reputable journals. A reviewer will not allow weak works to pass.
  • A reviewer normally will not allow citing only weakly relevant works, or not citing some highly relevant works.

As a result, there are limits how far this can go. I think it may push a little bit up the ranking that is already good.


I wouldn't bother with citation metrics personally speaking. They're useful for drones like ChatGPT because it can't "think" without oceanfuls of data but Einstein cited no-one when he published his short paper on Special Relativity. He did, however mention scientists of the calibre of Newton, Maxwell, Hertz, Doppler & Lorentz.

Incentives have always been important in science as well as in other fields. They aren't always financial. I would expect an ambitious scientist to be more interested in working a very well funded world class institute. The kind of incentives you mention smack of neoliberalism, a doctrine that was born in the US and that trickled down to Britain from the 1990s on with dire consequences for scientific prowess with Nature, the most prestigious general science journal in the field, and a known to be a spokesperson fir the entire scientific community, complaining that laboratories couldn't find post-doc "pipeline" was drying up under that market regime.

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