The effect of competitive public funding on scientific output: A comparison between China and the EU

Lili Wang*, Xianwen Wang, Fredrik Niclas Piro, Niels Philipsen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Public funding is believed to play an important role in the development of science and technology. However, whether public funding and, in particular, competitive funding from public agencies actually helps to increase scientific output (i.e. publications) remains a matter of debate. By analysing a dataset of co-publications between China and the EU and a dataset of joint project collaborations in European Framework Programs for Research and Innovation [FP7 and Horizon 2020 (H2020)], we investigate whether different public funding agencies’ competitive assets have different impact on the volume of publication output. Our results support the hypotheses that competitively funded research output varies by funding sources, so that a high level of funding does not necessarily lead to high scientific output. Our results show that FP7/H2020 funded projects do not have a positive contribution to the output of joint publications between China and the EU. Interestingly, cooperation in the form of jointly writing proposals to these EU programmes, especially when they are not granted by the European Commission, can contribute significantly to joint scientific publications in a later stage. This applies in particular to cases where funding from China is involved. Our findings highlight the key role that funding agencies play in influencing research behaviour. Our results indicate that Chinese funding triggers a high number of publications, whereas research funded by the EU does so to a much lower extent, arguably due to the EU’s strong focus on social impact and its funding schemes as tools to promote European integration.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberrvaa023
Pages (from-to)418-429
Number of pages13
JournalResearch Evaluation
Issue number4
Early online date10 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020


  • competitive public funding
  • research evaluation
  • scientific output
  • international collaboration
  • China
  • EU member states


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