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On the development of China’s leadership in international collaborations


This paper studies the relationship between leadership, team size, and citation impact in China’s international research output from 1980 to 2016, measured in terms of number of authors, institutions, countries, and citations. Distinction is here made between leading and non-leading Chinese international collaborations, which respectively refer to papers whose first or corresponding author is affiliated to a Chinese institution and papers co-authored by researchers from a Chinese institution but whose first and corresponding authors are not. Analysis at the individual, institutional, and country level show that while average team size by paper increases over the period, the main collaboration mode remains bilateral at the country level. We also observe a positive relationship between team size and research impact up to a certain point, but Chinese-led international collaborations tend to imply smaller teams and have lower impact than non-leading collaborations.

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Research for this article has been founded by the Wuhan University Scholarship Fund and Yu Gang-Song Xiao scholarship from Wuhan University, China, Québec-China Short-term research or professional development scholarships (3C), and China Scholarship Council (CSC). The authors also thank the Observatoire des Sciences et des Technologies for providing the data.

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Conceived and designed the experiments: WQ RYZ VL. Performed the experiments: WQ PM MSM. Analyzed the data: WQ. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: WQ PM MSM RYZ VL. Wrote the paper: WQ PM MSM.

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Correspondence to Wei Quan.

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Quan, W., Mongeon, P., Sainte-Marie, M. et al. On the development of China’s leadership in international collaborations. Scientometrics 120, 707–721 (2019).

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  • Collaboration
  • Team size
  • China
  • Research evaluation
  • Citation analysis