2018 - All Press Releases

Competition heats up in the world of high-quality scientific research

London, 7 June

The United States is the world's largest contributor to high-quality scientific research papers, followed by China and Germany, according to the Nature Index 2018 Annual Tables released today. These tables track by country and institution the research published in 82 high-quality journals each year, counting both the total number of papers and the share of authorship of each paper.

The US retains its leading position despite a slight decline in output from last year. Its high-quality research output remains more than double that of China's, which continues its sharp ascent. Alongside the US, China and Germany, South Africa and Brazil are regional leaders. The Chinese Academy of Sciences is the leading international institution in the 2018 tables.

The increasingly global nature of high-quality research publishing – including China's dramatic rise – has led to considerable competition between institutions looking to place their research in the finite space available in the world's top journals. 49 institutions from China have improved their positions in the global top 500 institutions tables from the previous year, with an additional 14 Chinese institutions entering the top 500 and only 15 losing ground. In contrast, 62 US institutions increased their rank and 74 dropped down. In Japan – fifth in the index overall – only four institutions gained positions compared to 15 that moved in the other direction.

The Nature Index Annual Tables show calendar year output in Nature Index journals for the last three years, and reveal the countries, institutions and companies that are leading the way in publishing high-quality global science. (See 'About the Nature Index' for full definitions of measures). The Nature Index is compiled by Nature Research, part of Springer Nature, and forms part of Nature Research's wider efforts to provide the research community with relevant information about the state of global science and publishing trends.

The leading international institutions in the 2018 tables are: the Chinese Academy of Sciences (1), Harvard University, US (2), Max Planck Society, Germany (3), French National Centre for Scientific Research (4), Stanford University, US (5), Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US (6), Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres, Germany (7), The University of Tokyo, Japan (8), University of California Berkeley, US (9) and the University of Cambridge, UK (10).

F. Hoffmann-La Roche AG, Switzerland, is the top performing corporate institution globally. It is followed by: IBM Corporation, US (2), Novartis International AG, Switzerland (3), Merck & Co., Inc., US (4), AstraZeneca plc, UK (5), Pfizer Inc., US (6), GlaxoSmithKline plc., UK (7), GNS Science, New Zealand (8), Samsung Group, South Korea (9) and Amgen Inc., US (10).

David Swinbanks, founder of the Nature Index, said:

"The continued rise of China in the index is remarkable, with four Chinese universities - Peking, Tsinghua, Nanjing and USTC - now among the world's top 25 academic institutions alongside the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which continues to top the index with its huge number of institutes and researchers."

"Given the close to constant number of articles published each year in the index journals, other countries are inevitably losing a share of articles as a result of China's growth, notably the United States, Germany, United Kingdom, Japan, France, Spain and Australia. But the United States remains the preeminent scientific nation with its institutions accounting for 46 of the global top 100," Dr Swinbanks added.

The Nature Index website — natureindex.com — provides free, quick and simple access to the recent research profiles of more than 9,000 global institutions and 150 countries and territories. The data behind the 2018 tables remain freely accessible, allowing users to examine patterns of publication and collaboration. Nature Index supplements are curated by a dedicated team of editors and provide analysis and commentary around the most recent data, including organisational and country-level profiles. These supplements also include additional information from other data sources, such as demographics, national spending on research and development, and changes to science policy and funding, which help to put the Nature Index data into context.

Accessing the Nature Index 2018 Annual Tables

The annual tables are available here: natureindex.com/annual-tables/2018

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 82 high-quality natural science journals, increasing from 68 in June 2018. The annual tables for 2016, 2017 and 2018 available on natureindex.com have been updated to use this revised list of journals. (See 'Revisions to the Nature Index' for more information).

The selection process for the current list of journals was led by two independent panels of active scientists in the life and physical sciences. Journal selections were validated using more than 6,600 responses from researchers to an email survey, which asked "Where would you most like to publish your best research?"

A rolling 12-month window of Nature Index data is made available openly under a Creative Commons license at natureindex.com, allowing users to analyse research outputs from, and collaboration among, more than 9,000 institutions and 150 countries. On the index website, an institution's article output is organised by broad subject area and can be viewed across the most recent 12-month period. International and domestic collaborations are shown for each institution.

The Nature Index website also presents annual league tables of institutions and countries going back to 2015. Upon free registration on 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 two 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.

To keep informed of Nature Index updates and other news, please sign up for weekly email updates here.

About Nature Research

Nature Research is a portfolio 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 Research 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, Naturejobs. Nature Research 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 Research is part of Springer Nature.


Mark Staniland

Corporate Communications Lead, Nature Research

T: +44 (0)207 014 6630

E: mark.staniland@nature.com