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The number of scholarly articles published by American academics in science and engineering fields would have declined by 2.03 percent between 2014 and 2018 without collaboration from co-authors from China, according to a new article published in the journal Higher Education.

The article, published against a backdrop of increasing scrutiny of Chinese scientific collaborations and concerns from U.S. national security officials and lawmakers about the threat of academic espionage, finds that recent growth in U.S. science and engineering research depended on collaboration with Chinese scholars, while China’s total science and engineering research output would have increased from 2014 to 2018 even without collaboration with Americans.

“From solely a U.S. nation-state perspective, that views scientific advancement as zero-sum competition with winners and losers, the findings demonstrate that the U.S.A. has more to lose than gain in cutting ties with China,” says the article authored by Jenny J. Lee and John P. Haupt, both of the University of Arizona. The article, titled “Winners and losers in U.S.-China scientific research collaborations,” is based on a study of copublications in the Scopus database of scholarly research.

Lee and Haupt also found that the top 10 most frequently acknowledged funders of research published by American and Chinese scholars involved U.S. and Chinese funding agencies, and that seven of these top 10 funders were Chinese, while three were American. The seven Chinese funding agencies supported 3.5 times the number of publications as the three U.S. agencies did.

“Additionally, when looking at the most impactful research produced over the five-year period between U.S. and China scholars, China scholars were lead authors on twice as many publications as U.S. scholars, demonstrating their meaningful roles in scientific knowledge creation,” Lee and Haupt wrote. “Therefore, not only are the Chinese contributing financially to make collaborations possible, they are also contributing intellectually by leading in new knowledge production. Although the focus of this study was centered on the U.S.A., it is necessary to acknowledge that China also benefits from U.S. collaborations. While China produces the highest number of scientific research publications, the country lags behind the U.S.A. in research impact … International co-publishing benefits China (as well as their international collaborators) in increased citations, scientific human capacity, and university prestige.”