National Communication Center for Science and Technology CAST / News

Nation to bolster scientific publishing

By Zhang Zhihao | China Daily | Updated:2020-10-24

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A staff member displays samples of the COVID-19 inactivated vaccine at Sinovac Biotech Ltd, in Beijing, March 16, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

COVID-19 research published in Chinese scientific journals has played a key role in the nation's fight against the disease, but the nation's overall scientific publishing industry still needs more talent, resources and international cooperation to be competitive on the world stage, Chinese experts have said.

Last month, President Xi Jinping said China will need to create first-class academic journals and academic platforms. This was the first time Xi highlighted these subjects in his speeches, which showcased the significance of these topics for the country.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Chinese scientists have contributed greatly to the treasure trove of knowledge about the illness by publishing their insights at home and abroad, said Zhang Boli, president of Tianjin University of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

As of August, one of the world's premier medical journals, the Lancet, had published 188 papers on COVID-19, 41 of which were written by Chinese authors, said Yang Wei, former director of the National Natural Science Foundation of China. These papers from China accounted for 9,600 out of the 11,000 citations of all the COVID-19 papers published by the journal at the time, he added.

In journals published domestically, such as the Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, scientists shared their knowledge on how TCM could be used to help alleviate COVID-19 symptoms and improve rates of successful treatment, especially for severely ill patients, Zhang said.

For example, Zhang said they discovered that using ginseng could help improve a severely ill patient's blood oxygen level. Xuebijing, a TCM compound injection, was found to be a safer alternative to steroids to quell a cytokine storm, a potentially fatal condition in which the immune system goes into overdrive and attacks the infection and healthy cells indiscriminately.

TCM practitioners also proposed studying the rate at which mild cases were turning into serious cases as a key clinical indicator. This advice was later accepted by the World Health Organization and doctors worldwide, Zhang said.

However, Zhang said it typically takes months for a study to be published in foreign journals. Moreover, foreign publishers are often reluctant to accept and publish manuscripts on TCM, meaning the global scientific community is less familiar with related research topics, he said.

"This is why China needs to create its own world-class academic journals to get our knowledge out," he said, adding that China's scientific publishing industry will need to enhance their global outreach and collaboration.

Lyu Zhaoping, member of the Leading Party Members' Group of the China Association for Science and Technology, said scientific journals are crucial for sharing scientific thoughts and discoveries that are instrumental in spearheading scientific development and passing down knowledge to future generations.

By 2035, China aims to become a global front-runner in scientific publishing with its own world-class scientific journals and publishers, according to a document issued by the association along with other government ministries last year.

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