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Index reveals emerging trends in research for sustainable development

Latest Nature Index 2021 Science Cities places new focus on research relevant to the ten SDGs most relevant to the natural science - with Beijing placing as top 

24 September 2021

The Nature Index 2021 Science Cities, released on September 24, takes a new focus on its science cities, as it examines their research output related to the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), from the period of 2015-20.  The top 10 science cities in SDG-related research are Beijing, San Francisco Bay Area, New York MA, Baltimore-Washington, Boston MA, Shanghai, Nanjing, Singapore, Los Angeles MA, and Seoul MA.

The supplement explores SDG-related research output by leading science cities and metropolitan areas in the 82 selected natural-sciences journals tracked by the Nature Index. These cities were measured by article share or Share from 2015 to 2020, the key metric of the Nature Index. Articles are filtered into 17 SDGs using SDG-related classifiers available via Digital Science’s Dimensions database*.

While the supplement concentrates on ten SDGs (of 17 total) that are most relevant to the natural-sciences focus of the Nature Index, there are three dominating SDGs by volume of related publications in the Nature Index journals: SDG7 (Affordable and clean energy), SDG13 (Climate action) and SDG3 (Good health and well-being). 

However, the Nature Index data show that different cities have different priorities in SDG-related research. For example, Beijing had the highest SDG7-related output for 2015-20, almost three times higher than that of San Francisco Bay Area. The city was also placed first by research output related to SDG13 and SDG14 (Life below water) for the same period. Baltimore-Washington and Boston MA are No.1 and No.2 for SDG3-related research. New York MA is strong in research on SDG 13, only second to Beijing. 

David Swinbanks, Founder of the Nature Index, commented: “These local priorities reflect the different local challenges these cities are facing and actively responding to, as well as the high concentration of resources including leading scientific institutions, facilities and funding in many of the world’s largest cities. But it is also noteworthy that small cities focused on particular SDG-related research can also contribute significantly. For example, Townsville, Australia with a population of less than 200,000 is second only to Beijing in research on life under water (SDG-14) due to leading edge research on the Great Barrier Reef by institutions there.”

The growth in output of SDG research is shown as having been greatest in Beijing, and Chinese cities – Beijing, Nanjing, Shanghai and Guangzhou – with the New York and Boston metropolitan areas appearing in the top 20 fastest-rising cities.

The supplement also includes global science city ranking by overall performance (not just SDG research) in Nature Index in 2020. Beijing comes on top of the ranking, a position held since 2016. Nanjing has risen from rank 19 to 8, Shanghai from 8th to 5th, while New York MA, Baltimore-Washington, Tokyo, Paris and Los Angeles MA have all moved down one position 2015-2020. 
The full supplement can be read and accessed here. The supplement was produced with the financial support of the Beijing Municipal Government. Nature retains sole responsibility for all editorial content. 

Note to editors:

The supplement showcases 50 cities in the Nature Index and examines the challenges and paths in research collaboration the world over, as these cities cultivate connections with global scientific hotspots. 

‘Science Cities’ as referred to by Nature Index are those whose institutions collectively publish the most output in the 82 high-quality journals tracked by the Nature Index. The top five Nature Index science cities were also considered based on data from five different independent indices including the Arcadis Sustainable Cities Index, Kearney Global Cities Index, Innovation Cities Index, IMD Smart City Index and the Global Power City Index. 

Note: The Nature Index is one indicator of institutional research performance. The metrics of Count and Share used to order Nature Index listings are based on an institution’s or country’s publication output in 82 natural science journals, selected on reputation by an independent panel of leading scientists in their fields. The Nature Index recognizes that many other factors must be taken into account when considering research quality and institutional performance; Nature Index metrics alone should not be used to assess institutions or individuals. Nature Index data and methods are transparent and available under a creative commons license at natureindex.com.

The journals in the Nature Index were selected by independent committees of 58 leading natural-sciences researchers, who were asked to nominate the journals in which they would most like to publish their best work. Their deliberations were validated by a survey of more than 6,000 scientists worldwide. 

*Dimensions is a modern, innovative, linked-research-knowledge system that re-imagines discovery and access to research. Developed by Digital Science in collaboration with over 100 leading research organizations around the world, Dimensions brings together grants, publications, citations, alternative metrics, clinical trials, patents and datasets to deliver a platform that enables users to find and access the most relevant information faster, analyse the academic and broader outcomes of research, and gather insights to inform future strategy. For more information visit the dimensions.ai and @DSDimensions.


About the 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 science journals, chosen by an independent group of researchers.

The Nature Index provides absolute and fractional counts of article publication 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 licence at natureindex.com. The database is compiled by Nature Research, part of Springer Nature.

Nature Index metrics

The Nature Index uses Count and Share to track research output. A country/region, city or an institution is given a Count of 1 for each article that has at least one author from that country/region, city 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 Count of multiple countries/regions, cities or institutions.

To glean a country/region’s, city’s or an institution’s contribution to an article, and to ensure they are not counted more than once, the Nature Index uses Share, a fractional count that takes into account the share of authorship on each article. The total Share available per article is 1, which is shared among all authors under the assumption that each contributed equally. For instance, an article with 10 authors means that each author receives a Share of 0.1. For authors who are affiliated with more than one institution, the author’s Share is then split equally between each institution. The total Share for an institution is calculated by summing the Share for individual affiliated authors. The process is similar for countries/regions, although complicated by the fact that some institutions have overseas labs that will be counted towards host country/region totals.

About Springer Nature

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Zhang Li | Communications | Springer Nature