2022 - All Press Releases

Chinese institutions on the rise, but the United States holds its position at the top of the 2022 Nature Index Annual Tables

China sees the largest increase in research output among the countries named in the top ten and closes the gap on the United States which has seen a drop in output but retains its place as the leading country

London | Heidelberg | Sydney, 16th June 2022

The Nature Index Annual Tables, released today, examine the institutions and countries that contributed most to high-quality natural-sciences research in 2021. China had a strong year, second for research output overall, as measured by Share* and with 14.4% growth in output in 2021 compared with 2020, the largest increase among the top ten countries in the Annual Tables.

The Chinese Academy of Sciences leads the institutional tables for the tenth consecutive year since the Index was established, with a Share of 1,963.00 in 2021. This is more than double that of Harvard University, in second place, with a Share of 910.93. Four of the ten leading institutions come from China, and of those ten, only the Chinese institutions have shown an increase in adjusted share** from 2020–21.

Reflecting the overall picture of China’s dominance, another Chinese institution, The University of Chinese Academy of Sciences (8th overall) has seen growth of 21.4%, making it the fastest rising institution in the Index. Of the 50 fastest rising institutes, the top 31 are from China, where in the 2021 tables only two of the top 10 were Chinese institutions. This year just ten of the 50 come from outside China. 

Elsewhere, whilst the United States retains its place as the top nation for research output, the amount of research has declined by 6.2%, the largest decline posted by a top 10 country and its steepest fall since 2017. Other countries among the top 10 have also seen a decline in output: Germany, third overall, has seen a downward turn of 0.7% and the United Kingdom, in fourth, has seen a drop of 5.7%. It should however be borne in mind that the Index is a zero sum game with a finite number of about 60,000 articles published per year in the Index journals. With China and its institutions rising so much, other countries and institutions have to fall in the competition to publish in the 82 journals of the Index.

Commenting, David Swinbanks, Founder of the Nature Index, said: “The Nature Index Annual Tables show that China’s investment in research through their large, and now well-established institutions is resulting in sustained research output in the natural sciences. In 2021 their investment in research accounted for 2.4% of China’s GDP, showing their commitment to this area. This year, their funding impact on their research growth stands out more when compared to the changes we have seen in other countries, particularly Germany, the UK, France and Japan.”

On the conclusions we can draw from these tables, Swinbanks added: “While the Annual Tables are a good indicator of high research output in the natural sciences, we encourage readers to use the findings alongside other scientific outputs such as data, software and intellectual property when considering research quality and institutional performance.”


Note to Editors

Research output has also been split by sector, with leading institution tables available by field of research available here.

*Nature Index’s signature metric, Share, is a fractional count for an article allocated to an institution, city or country/region, that takes into account the proportion of authors on the article whose institutional affiliation is with that institution or location. 

**Adjusted Share takes account of a small annual variation in the total number of articles in the Nature Index. For further explanation, please see natureindex.com/glossary. 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/region’s publication output in 82 natural science journals, selected on reputation by an independent panel of leading scientists in their fields. The Nature Index recognises 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.

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 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 or an institution is given a Count 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 Count of multiple countries/regions or institutions.

To glean a country’s, a region’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 Nature Portfolio 

Nature Portfolio is a range of high-quality products and services across the life, physical, chemical and applied sciences – including journals, databases and researcher services – dedicated to serving the scientific community.

Nature (founded in 1869) is the leading, international weekly journal of science. Nature Portfolio also publishes a range of Nature-branded subscription journals, the leading open access multidisciplinary journal Nature Communications, other open access journals including Scientific Reports, and a range of Nature Partner Journals published in partnership with institutions and societies. Together, these journals publish some of the world's most significant scientific discoveries.

Online, nature.com provides over nine million unique visitors per month with Nature Research content, including news and comment from Nature, and the leading scientific jobs board, Nature Careers. Nature Portfolio also offers a range of researcher services, including online and in-person training and expert language and editing services. For more information, please visit nature.com and follow @nresearchnews. Nature Portfolio is part of Springer Nature.

About Springer Nature

For over 180 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