The Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), the top research organization in China, cuts the use of China’s giant online research database China National Knowledge Infrastructure (CNKI) on Wednesday 20 April due to its constant steep rise in annual subscription fees.

According to a notice issued by CAS’s National Science Library, the total cost of the CNKI database for CAS reached 10 million yuan ($1.5 million) in 2021, which accounted for an enormous part of CAS’ subscription resources. In 2022, after several rounds of tough negotiations over the costs and subscription models, CNKI still attempts to charge the institution nearly 10 million yuan ($1.5 million) for its services and set up a series of restrictions which includes limiting user access.

Why it matters

Privately owned but under the supervision of China’s education ministry, revenue from CNKI’s main academic resources business reached 496 million yuan ($77.4 million) in the first half of 2021, with a gross profit margin of 51.3% according to the company’s financial report.

Over the past decade, at least six Chinese universities have terminated their subscription to CNKI due to frequent price increases. But academics have acknowledged that CNKI is the most comprehensive of all the academic databases.


CNKI is China’s biggest academic publishing platform and provider of online academic resources with over 20 million users. This database serves more than 20,000 institutions, including universities, research institutions, and government departments. It stores some 95% of Chinese academic papers and resources as well as many overseas articles and abstracts.