Emerging nations closing gap on established leaders, Nature Index shows
17 June 2015
China is stepping up its contribution to global high-quality research output year-on-year at the expense of the United States,
Germany and the United Kingdom. This is according to the Nature Index 2015 Global supplement, published this week with
Nature, that analyses data compiled by the Nature Index (natureindex.com).
Overall, North America, North & West Europe, and East & Southeast Asia account for 91% of the Index's weighted fractional
count (WFC), a metric that apportions credit for research articles according to the affiliations of the contributing authors.
North America remains the world's most dominant region for high-quality scientific output in the most reputable journals. China has the second largest output in the Index with a WFC score of 6,037, only a third of the United States' count of 17,936. As ordered by WFC, China is number two behind the US and is followed by Germany, the United Kingdom and Japan. China's
contribution grew 16% from 2013 to 2014, whereas contributions from each of the other top five countries decreased. Output
from the US has fallen 3.5%. China's double digit growth is a sustained pattern, building on 14.9% growth from 2012 to 2013.
"China's sustained growth in high-quality research output is impressive. The numbers seem clear: a rapidly increasingly
proportion of the best research in the world is being initiated, led and completed in China," said Nick Campbell, Executive
The Nature Index tracks the author affiliations of nearly 60,000 high-quality scientific articles published between 2012 and
2014. Analysis reveals clear regional research focus. The Nature Index 2015 Global supplement finds North America is dominant
in the life sciences, highlights the contributions of Central & East Europe and West Asia in the physical sciences, and East &
Southeast Asia’s strengths in chemistry. North & West Europe and Australasia & Pacific Islands split their contributions
relatively evenly amongst these broad subject areas.
Richard Hughes, Publisher of the Nature Index, said: "It's perhaps not surprising to see fast growth from nations like China,
given the substantial investments in research they have made.
"Equally, some commentators in the Nature Index 2015 Global supplement suggest that restricted funding for research and
development by traditional scientific powerhouse nations may eventually lead to their position as world leaders being challenged.
"It's too early to tell whether the flattening in output we see from such nations in this supplement are the early signs of this
taking place, but it will be a fascinating question to explore as the Nature Index builds its database over the coming years. A more
integrated, international research ecosystem can only be good for scientific endeavour, social progress and global development."
International collaborations* are another interesting finding of the Nature Index 2015 Global supplement. The majority of
international collaborations in North & West Europe are with institutions within the same region (51%). Researchers in East &
Southeast Asia tend to look further afield, with nearly three quarters of all collaborations occurring with institutions in North
America (45%) or North & West Europe (18%). A future Nature Index supplement, planned for late 2015, will explore
international research collaborations in more depth.
First launched in November 2014, the Nature Index uses three measures to track author affiliation data: article count (AC), the
fractional count (FC) which takes into account the relative contribution of each author to an article, and WFC. WFC is used as the primary metric as it provides a more even basis for comparison and in determining the relative contribution of each country or institution.
More information about the Nature Index is available at natureindex.com.
Notes to editors
*Collaborations are discussed only in relation to patterns indicated by the co-occurrence of relevant affiliations on Nature Index papers. While indicative of collaboration on high quality research in the natural sciences, these figures do not provide a
comprehensive picture of research collaboration overall.
About the Nature Index
The Nature Index database tracks the author affiliations of nearly 60,000 high quality scientific articles published per year,
disambiguating over 20,000 research institutions worldwide. The database is compiled by Nature Publishing Group in
collaboration with Digital Science.
Articles included in the Nature Index are drawn from 68 natural science journals, identified by researchers as where they would
choose to publish their best work. The journals were selected by two independent panels of active scientists, chaired by Professor John Morton (University College London) and Dr Yin-Biao Sun (Kings College, London). More than 2,800 responses to a large-
scale survey were used to validate the selections. Nature Publishing Group estimate that these 68 journals account for about 30% of total citations to natural science journals.
A rolling 12-month snapshot of data from the Nature Index is openly available under a Creative Commons license at
natureindex.com, so that users can analyse scientific research outputs themselves. On the Index website, an institution's
output of articles can be viewed across the 12-month data window and by broad subject area. International and domestic
collaborations are also shown for each institution. A fractional count indicates an institution's contribution to an article, taking
into account the percentage of authors from an institution (or country) and the number of affiliated institutions per article.
It turns a spotlight on the countries and institutions around the world that contributed to some of the highest quality research
over the previous calendar year. Analysis also includes layers of information from other data sources, such as demographics,
national spend on research and development, changes to science policy and funding, which help put the Nature Index data into
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