In the midst of a verbal skirmish between Google and China, the Nature journal this week released the results of a survey that found that three-quarters of Chinese scientists primarily use Google 's search engine in online research efforts.
The publisher added that nearly 48% of the 784 Chinese scientists surveyed said that their research efforts would be "significantly" hampered if they lost access to Google. Another 36% said their research would be "somewhat" hampered. On its website, Nature cites Xiong Zhenqin, a Chinese ecologist at Nanjing Agricultural University, as saying "Research without Google would be like life without electricity."
Nature said that 92.5% of the Chinese scientists polled said they use Google for at least some work-related searches. Almost 60% said they sometimes use the China-based Baidu search engine and 12.9% use Yahoo.
Some industry analysts have speculated that Baidu would be the big winner if Google packs up its business and goes home. That's backed up by the Nature study, which shows that 45.5% of respondents said they would use Baidu if they lost access to Google. Almost 33% said they would turn to Yahoo. The report did not say how many of the scientists would use Microsoft's Bing search engine.
The study, which was conducted over the past month, also shows that nearly 44% of the scientists use Gmail, Google's email service, and just over half use Google Maps as a research tool.
The study comes on the heels of Google's disclosure that it may shut down its Chinese operations due to what it called a major cyberattack on its network from within China. A week after first disclosing the attack in January, Google CEO Eric Schmidt told investors during a quarterly earnings call that he was holding out hope that the company could continue doing business in China.
Now, more than a month after Google's first jab at the Chinese government, the world is still waiting for the search company's next step. Industry watchers wonder how long Google can wait before some supporters of the initial move start to get frustrated with what they see as a lack of follow through on its threat.