27 Jan 2011

New Blood

If the escalating impact factors are due to increasing number of researchers, where do they come from?

Western politicians love to blame Chinese workers for everything. But this time they are not too far off. The last decade saw a rapid increase in research papers from developing countries. In fact, China is already second (after USA) in the number of biomedical papers produced last year. Although the quality of many papers still has room for improvement, more and more top scientific papers are coming from China.

There are many reasons behind the rise of developing countries. Many countries enjoyed substantial economic growth and could support scientific research. Globalization and easy access to scientific articles online also stimulate scientific development.

I found a new reason during our recent visit to China.

A medical professor told us that not only academics but also most doctors in China had to publish papers. It is almost impossible to get promoted to a consultant post in urban hospitals without publications. In the past, publications in Chinese journals were still acceptable. Nowadays, administrators are more ambitious and ask for papers in international journals. Worse still, many international journals do not accept case reports any more. So original research works are required.

While I believe all medical doctors should be trained in evidence-based medicine and be able to critique biomedical works, asking everyone to write papers appears to be pushing too far.

“Do you mean,” I found it difficult to understand, “that even doctors in small service hospitals have to do studies and publish papers?”

“Yes, indeed.”

“How do they get the time and funding for research?”

“Well, they don’t have any.”

“That is forcing them to …” I was forced to conclude. And we fell back in silence.

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