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Rapid growth in high-quality research outputs shows China is consolidating position as scientific powerhouse

Heidelberg | London, 27 July 2016

The Nature Index 2016 Rising Stars supplement identifies the countries and institutions showing the most significant growth in high-quality research publications, using the power of the Nature Index, which tracks the research of more than 8,000 global institutions. These are the players to watch.

It shows that Chinese institutions are leading the world in rapidly increasing high-quality research outputs. 40 of the top 100 most improved institutions across the globe are from this scientific powerhouse, with 24 of those showing growth above 50% since 2012. The United States – which remains the largest contributor to high-quality scientific papers overall – is second, with 11 entrants into the top 100 despite many starting from a high base. Nine institutions feature from the United Kingdom, and eight from Germany.

The top 100 most improved institutions in the index between 2012 and 2015 are ranked by the increase in their contribution to 68 high-quality journals. (See ‘About the Nature Index’ for full definitions of measures.)

The global top 10 of most improved institutions is occupied by academic heavyweights such as the Chinese Academy of Sciences (first) – having seen its output of high-quality papers increase by more than any other institution – and the University of Oxford, UK (tenth). Nine Chinese institutions in total occupy the top 10 positions, including Peking University (second), Nanjing University (third) and the University of Science and Technology of China (fourth).

From this top 100, the supplement profiles 25 rising stars that are already making their mark, and have the potential to shine in coming decades. Some have climbed sharply up the index’s global rankings, while others had the highest growth in output in their country. These emergent players have increased their performance considerably, often without the same longevity, reputation and resources of more well-established research strongholds.

South Korea’s new Institute for Basic Science (11th) increased its contribution to high-quality journals by more than 4,000% in four years. The King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) – a key part of Saudi Arabia’s strategy to reduce its dependence on oil and develop a knowledge-led economy – is placed 19th. Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, takes the final place in the top 20 as a result of its strength in chemistry and recent investment in sustainability and environmental research.

In a global top 100 almost entirely made up of universities, the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) are notable exceptions, placed 79th and 92nd respectively.

David Swinbanks, Founder of the Nature Index, said: “With four years of data already behind it, the Nature Index is an increasingly powerful tool to assess research performance. By identifying these rising stars, we’re given an insight into which new emerging institutions are likely to play a role in addressing some of the globe’s most pressing challenges. Providing researchers and institutions with this data, through the index’s freely accessible website, is another example of how Nature Research is working to meet the scientific community’s needs.”

More information about the Nature Index is available at


For more information contact:

Mark Staniland
Senior Communications Manager, Nature Research
T: +44 (0)207 014 6630

Notes to editors:

About the Nature Index

First launched in November 2014, the Nature Index database tracks the author affiliations of research articles published in a group of 68 high-quality natural science journals, which have been selected by independent panels of active scientists. 

Responses from over 2,800 individuals to a large scale survey were used to validate the selections. Springer Nature estimates that these 68 journals account for nearly 30% of total citations to natural science journals.

A rolling 12-month window of Nature Index data is made available openly under a Creative Commons license at, allowing users to analyse research outputs from 8,000 institutions and 150 countries. On the index website, an institution's output of articles organised by broad subject area can be viewed across the most recent 12 month period. International and domestic collaborations are shown for each institution. The website also presents annual league tables of institutions and countries going back to 2012. Upon free registration of the website, users are able to plot longitudinal trends in output for institutions and countries, and export raw data for further analysis. 

The Nature Index uses three counts of article output:

• Article count (AC) - A country or institution is given an AC of 1 for each article that has at least one author from that country or institution. This is the case whether an article has one or a hundred authors, and it means that the same article can contribute to the AC of multiple countries or institutions.

• Fractional Count (FC) - FC takes into account the relative contribution of each author to an article. The maximum FC per paper is 1, and this is shared between all authors under the assumption that each contributed equally. For instance, each author on a paper with 10 authors would receive a FC of 0.1. 

• Weighted Fractional Count (WFC) - applies a weighting to FC to adjust for an overrepresentation of papers from astronomy and astrophysics. The four journals in these disciplines publish about 50% of all papers in international journals in this field — approximately five times the equivalent figures for other fields. Therefore, although the data for astronomy and astrophysics are compiled in exactly the same way as for all other disciplines, articles from these journals are assigned one-fifth the weight of other articles.

About Nature Research

Nature Research is a portfolio of high quality products and services across the life, physical, chemical and applied sciences, including journals, online databases and researcher services, which are dedicated to serving the scientific community. Nature (founded in 1869) is the leading weekly, international scientific journal and sits at the heart of the brand. Nature Research also publishes a range of Nature-branded research and reviews subscription journals, alongside leading open access multidisciplinary journal Nature Communications and other open access journals, including mega journal Scientific Reports and a range of partner journals known collectively as the Nature Partner Journals. Online, provides over 8 million visitors per month with access to Nature Research publications and services, including news and comment from Nature, and the leading scientific jobs board Naturejobs. Nature Research also offers a range of researcher services, including online and in-person training and expert language and editing services.

Nature Research is part of Springer Nature, a leading global research, educational and professional publisher. Springer Nature is the world’s largest academic book publisher, publisher of the world’s most influential journals and a pioneer in the field of open research. The company numbers almost 13,000 staff in over 50 countries. Springer Nature was formed in 2015 through the merger of Nature Publishing Group, Palgrave Macmillan, Macmillan Education and Springer Science+Business Media.

For more information, please visit and and follow @nresearchnews and@SpringerNature

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