China’s solar energy industry is developing rapidly and China’s solar energy research is experiencing a high speed of development alongside it. Is China’s solar energy research growth quantity-driven (paper-driven) or quality-driven (citation-driven)? Answering this question is important for China’s solar research field and industrial sector, and has implications for China’s other renewable research programs. Applying statistical methods, the citation analysis method, and web of science data, this study investigated China’s solar energy research between 2007 and 2015 from two perspectives: quantity (numbers of papers) and quality (number of paper citations). The results show that the number of Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-E) papers on solar energy in China has grown rapidly, surpassing the United States to become the world leader in 2015. However, the growth rate in scientific production was consistently higher than the growth rate of the number of times cited. When considering the average number of times a paper was cited among the top ten countries researching solar energy, China was in last place from 2007 to 2015. Further, the impact and effectiveness of China’s papers were below the world average from 2010 to 2015, and experienced a sharp decreasing trend. These results suggest that China’s solar energy research is a quantitatively driven model, with a mismatch between quantity and quality. New policies should be introduced to encourage high-quality research and achieve a balance between quantity and quality.
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