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US, China most active in AI research, report finds

Survey by Japanese institute highlights collaboration between the two countries

A Google data center in Oklahoma boasts state-of-the-art technology.

TOKYO -- Researchers in the U.S. and China are most active in the highly competitive field of artificial intelligence, accounting for a large portion of top-level studies on the subject, according to a survey by a Japanese research institute.

U.S. universities and companies made up nearly half the of the AI studies presented at top-level academic conferences in 2015, the report says. Chinese organizations were the second-most frequent presenters, with more than a fifth of the total.

The report was published by Japan's National Institute of Science and Technology Policy, which is affiliated with the country's education ministry. It also finds a growing number of collaborative studies by researchers in the two countries. Chinese companies are investing in research at U.S. universities, the report says.

NISTEP examined studies presented at three respected international academic conferences from 2010 to 2015, sorting them by presenter, organization and nationality of the author. Reports presented at these conferences are considered high quality as 30% or fewer of submissions are selected for presentation, the institute said.

At international meetings of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, a U.S. group regarded as the most authoritative in AI, reports by U.S. and Chinese researchers rose sharply over the past three years. In 2015, U.S. universities and companies presented 326 papers. That was 48.4% of the total and the largest share. They were followed by Chinese organizations, which presented findings 138 times, or 20.5% of the total.

Japanese researchers presented findings on just 20 occasions, or 3% of the time, putting the country in eighth place.

Of all reports presented by U.S. researchers in the six years covered by the NISTEP report, 74.6% were joint studies. Of these, 80 were collaborations with Chinese researchers. That far exceeded joint studies with scholars elsewhere. Often these collaborations came from Chinese researchers studying in the U.S., many of whom continue to work with U.S. researchers after returning home, according to NISTEP.

Japanese researchers mostly worked without overseas help. They collaborated with U.S. colleagues six times over the period, and with Chinese researchers five times. 

U.S. President Barack Obama has made research on AI, particularly the use of big data, a priority. Beijing is also promoting AI as a key research area.


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