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Influence of nation's research seen on rise

By Wang Xiaoyu | China Daily | Updated: 2023-12-18 07:34
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Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet medical journal. [Photo provided to]

Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet medical journal, said he believes that Chinese researchers are eager to cooperate with scientists around the world and have much expertise and experience to share with the international scientific community.

Horton, who has edited the world-leading medical journal since the early 1990s, said he observed in recent years a dramatic increase in both the quantity and quality of scientific papers from China.

"The quality of Chinese science has become some of the best in the world, which has encouraged Chinese scientists to step out and to be very active participants in an international conversation about science," Horton said during a recent interview in Beijing.

"I want to see the expertise of Chinese doctors, health workers and scientists deployed in the international arena, and that would be my earnest hope."

While recognizing the growing volume of papers written by Chinese researchers, Horton said the more important trend is the rising quality of their research work, as well as their heightened attention to clinical research and population health, on top of basic science.

"I think that's a very welcome move. Basic sciences are incredibly important, but are often a very long way from practice or clinic," he said.

"The trends that we're seeing now in the high quality of clinical and public health research mean that the impact of Chinese medical science can be almost immediate in China, and also internationally."

Underlying Chinese researchers' expanding prowess and international presence is their desire to "reach out to the international community and to be part of a global conversation about medicine, medical science and health," said Horton.

The Lancet, one of the most prestigious journals in the world, has stepped up cooperation with Chinese universities and research institutes.

Horton cited the example of four key reports that the journal has jointly released since 2018 with Peking University and Tsinghua University, focusing on healthy cities, maternal and child health, aging society and climate change's impact on health.

"These four projects are examples of how we are trying to use The Lancet to bridge the gap between science and society, between science and policy," he said. "Partnership delivers impact, and partnership based on science can be an instrument to change society for the better."

Horton added that a number of further collaborations are in the pipeline, covering topics such as mental health, ecological civilization, noncommunicable diseases, liver cancer, and poverty alleviation and health.

He said that for the science community, the only way to tackle potential pandemics and other challenges facing humankind is to intensify cooperation and facilitate the free flow of information among scientists, despite headwinds created by political division and polarization.

"I think it's very important for those of us in the medical community to prove to political leaders who are nervous about collaboration that they have no reason to be anxious and, in fact, there is nothing but benefit that comes from closer cooperation between Western and Chinese scientists."

Horton said the importance of China as a source of knowledge and a source of friendship in the world is not fully appreciated in the political arena.

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