2021 - All Press Releases

Young universities share the secrets of their success

Age is not a barrier to strong research performance as demonstrated by the Nature Index of universities aged 50 and under, which finds that the fastest-growing institutions in terms of high-quality research output are characterised by sharply defined purpose and researcher independence

London | Sydney | New York, 8 December 2021

The Nature Index 2021 Young Universities, published today in Nature, shows that while universities* with the highest increases in high-quality research output in this year’s supplement have shared approaches to purpose, recruitment and researcher independence, they are following different strategies in their respective drives to growth.

For the University of Technology, Sydney, Australia, which is among the fastest rising young universities for physical sciences and chemistry in the Nature Index, this has meant developing a strong framework around research centres with a focus on growing premium research productivity. For another, the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research in Bangalore, India, scientific advancement in select areas and a carefully measured approach to recruitment has proven effective.

Although different strategic approaches are serving young universities well, it is also evident that they share common practices, such as not recruiting faculty members just based on their speciality or seniority within the field, and a willingness to allow researchers the independence to run their own labs. This approach has been employed by many of the young Asian universities that continue to feature heavily in the Young Universities Index. 

Reflecting on the similarities among the young universities, David Swinbanks, founder of the Nature Index, said: “While there are many paths to success, many of these young universities share similar attributes. They have a strong focus on specialised areas of science and are carving out their own unique identities to attract top researchers. Through agile and creative thinking, anchored to a clear roadmap for the future, they are competing with more established counterparts, especially in recruitment and innovation. These young institutions are working toward sharply defined purposes, allowing researchers their own independence in developing and running their own labs and research, reaching their potential and keeping with the more purposeful, supported driven cultures they are striving for.”

23 of the Top 50 institutions by article share in 2020 come from China, with five of those making up the all Asian Top 10. Adding to the strong performance of Asian universities is South Korea with four institutions in the Top 50, three of which are listed in the Top 10, and India with five young universities listed amongst the Top 50 institutions. Outside of Asia, Australian universities also performed well with five young universities ranked in the Top 50. The United States, Austria and Germany all feature twice.


Note to Editors:

The full Nature Index Young Universities supplement can be found here.

*Universities, including graduate universities, were selected as being young (50 or under) if they were founded as an independent university in 1971 or later and were not formed by the merger or re-merger and/or re-naming of a university or universities older than 50. In addition, they had to be in the leading 750 academic institutions in Nature Index in 2020 to be selected.

About Nature Index

The Nature Index is a database of author affiliations and institutional relationships. The index tracks contributions to research articles published in 82 high-quality natural science journals, chosen by an independent group of researchers.

The Nature Index provides absolute and fractional counts of article publications at the institutional and national level and, as such, is an indicator of global high-quality research output and collaboration. Data in the Nature Index are updated regularly, with the most recent 12 months made available under a Creative Commons license at natureindex.com. The database is compiled by Springer Nature.

The Nature Index provides one of a number of possible ways to assess research excellence and institutional performance. Nature Index recognizes, in line with the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment, that many other factors must be taken into account when considering research quality and institutional performance, and that outputs from scientific research not only include journal articles, but data, software, intellectual property and highly trained young scientists. Nature Index metrics alone should not be used to assess institutions or individuals. 

The Nature Index metrics

The main metrics Nature Index provides to track research output and collaboration are article count (AC) and fractional count (FC).

A country/region or an institution is given an AC of 1 for each article that has at least one author from that country/region or institution. This is the case regardless of the number of authors an article has, and it means that the same article can contribute to the AC of multiple countries/regions or institutions.

*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.

About Springer Nature

For over 175 years Springer Nature has been advancing discovery by providing the best possible service to the whole research community. We help researchers uncover new ideas, make sure all the research we publish is significant, robust and stands up to objective scrutiny, that it reaches all relevant audiences in the best possible format, and can be discovered, accessed, used, re-used and shared. We support librarians and institutions with innovations in technology and data; and provide quality publishing support to societies. 

As a research publisher, Springer Nature is home to trusted brands including Springer, Nature Portfolio, BMC, Palgrave Macmillan and Scientific American. For more information, please visit springernature.com and @SpringerNature


Sam Sule | Communications | Springer Nature