China, New Zealand find common ground in scientific collaboration

China is now New Zealand's fourth major partner when it comes to co-producing scientific publications.

A report commissioned by the New Zealand China Council has found 11.6 percent of all New Zealand research in 2022 was co-authored with Chinese researchers, an increase from 2017's 7.7 percent figure.

Council chair John McKinnon said the report pointed to China as a leading research partners across multiple disciplines, behind Australia (20 percent), the United States (17.5 percent) and the United Kingdom (14.2 percent).

The two countries shared multiple areas of interest, he said, and New Zealand was benefiting from faster access to medical breakthroughs, better biosecurity against invasive pests, and improved fruit species.

"Scientific and wider academic research collaboration and partnership between New Zealand and China deserves more recognition for the value it generates," McKinnon said.

"The areas that are of interest to us and that the scientists have been pursuing are in matters such as food science, in terms of health - relating to cancer research, in terms of the environment, so they're areas which are of interest to New Zealand."

Collaborations with China brought access to a wider range of universities and experts, he said, and the country was undertaking more research than it previously had.

"Obviously it's a large country, it's rather larger than New Zealand, so there [is] going to be an availability of both human resource and other that's going to be of benefit to New Zealand."

However, the report also found challenges to scientific collaboration, including limited funding opportunities and the need to manage the risks involved with projects involving overseas partners.

"If you are engaging in scientific collaboration with an institute in another country, then you need to be confident that the science that is produced is going to be credible in terms of our own standards and our own procedures," McKinnon said.

"As the scope of science and research collaboration between New Zealand and China continues to expand, we need to keep clear and transparent processes in place to ensure research is for the right, positive purposes."

One way to ensure this was to start with connections between individual researchers who trusted each other, he said.