2020 - All Press Releases

Cancer research output continues to increase with most high-quality papers coming from institutions in the US and China

The Nature Index 2020 Cancer supplement tracks trends in cancer research output and collaboration, as well as research funding and progress in the prevention, treatment and survival rate for different forms of the disease

London | Berlin | Sydney, 22 April 2020

The number of cancer research articles published in journals listed in the Nature Index increased by 25.8 percent between 2015 and 2019. This is four times the growth for overall article output in this period. According to article Share – the key metric of the Nature Index, explained in the note below – institutions in North America and China made up the top 20 in terms of high-quality research output in the journals tracked by the Nature Index. In fact, when analysing the output using article Share from different countries, China’s output in cancer research rose by around 114.9 percent between 2015 and 2019, eclipsing by a factor of five percentage growth of Canada, the next fastest-rising country in cancer research with 24.2 percent growth over the period. Statistics were determined using both the Nature Index and Dimensions databases and are included in the latest Nature Index supplement which focuses on cancer.

The supplement also analyses the rise and distribution of cancer research funding using data from Dimensions, an inter-linked research information system provided by Digital Science. Although the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in the US is by far the world’s biggest funder of cancer research, the National Natural Science Foundation in China allocated more individual grants of smaller amounts, and the European Commission’s average grant size is 40 percent larger than the NCI’s.

Improved outcomes for some forms of cancer such as melanoma, or successful prevention strategies, such as for cervical cancer, provide examples of how this substantial investment in research is paying off. However, this supplement also shows that many of the latest treatments, such as robotic surgery for prostate cancer, are not available in the countries where 70 percent of cancer deaths occur.

David Swinbanks, Founder of the Nature Index, said: “We sometimes hear about a mismatch between investment in cancer research and patient outcomes. This supplement shows that the output of cancer research is increasing significantly, with strong collaboration domestically and internationally, but that this is driven by specific regions and countries. Analyses like these are important because they emphasise the need to find ways of bringing the latest developments and improvements in cancer prevention and treatment to regions where there is currently a low rate of survival.”

Further features in the supplement include profiles of three emerging researchers with strong collaboration networks identified using a combination of data from Nature Index and Dimensions.

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 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 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 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 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, Nature Careers. 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.

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 Research, BMC, Palgrave Macmillan and Scientific American. For more information, please visit springernature.com and @SpringerNature

About Digital Science

Digital Science is a technology company working to make research more efficient. We invest in, nurture and support innovative businesses and technologies that make all parts of the research process more open and effective. Our portfolio includes admired brands including Altmetric, CC Grant Tracker, Dimensions, Figshare, Gigantum, ReadCube, Symplectic, IFI Claims, GRID, Overleaf, Ripeta, Scismic and Writefull. We believe that together, we can help researchers make a difference. Visit digital-science.com and follow @digitalsci on Twitter.

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, analyze the academic and broader outcomes of research, and gather insights to inform future strategy. Visit Dimensions’ website and find us on Twitter @DSDimensions.

Further Information

For access to the tables and supplement please see here after the embargo lifts. 
Journalists may request a PDF copy of the supplement. 


Elizabeth Hawkins | Springer Nature | Communications
tel +49 6221 487 8130 | elizabeth.hawkins@springernature.com