2016 - All Press Releases

Melbourne and Sydney lead as hotspots for innovation in Australia

London | Sydney, 26 October 2016

According to the Nature Index, Melbourne was Australia’s leading city in terms of high-quality science output in 2015, followed by Sydney. The index also shows that Brisbane saw the fastest growth in output between 2012 and 2015, and is home to the highest-placed institution in Australia, The University of Queensland (UQ), which made the largest contribution by share of authorship to high-quality papers than any other institution last year. Overall, Australia’s high-quality research output has grown considerably, up by 10% in just three years, placing it 12th in the index’s global standings.

The Nature Index 2016 Australia and New Zealand supplement examines how these Antipodean neighbours compete on the global stage in producing high-quality research publications, and highlights the cities and institutions which are the epicentres of the region’s scientific endeavour and collaboration. It uses the power of the Nature Index, which tracks the high-quality research of more than 8,000 global institutions, and assesses the top 30 leading Australian institutions in the index in 2015 by their contribution to 68 high-quality journals. (See 'About the Nature Index' for full definitions of measures.)

83 of Melbourne’s institutions published in the 68 journals selected for inclusion in the Nature Index, compared to 50 from Sydney. Melbourne also had the most research partnerships between institutions within the city (city-to-city research partnerships), elevating it into the world’s top 10 ranked cities by this measure. In Sydney’s case, its strength in the physical sciences is found to be fuelling an expanding science ecosystem. Major research hubs focused on quantum computing and nanoscience have been strengthened by the addition of new labs in 2016, which, together with prowess in other disciplines such as astrophysics and photonics, offer promise for lucrative new industries.

Brisbane is bidding to break its southerly neighbours’ hold at the top of the index’s tables. Its output has grown faster than any other city in the past three years, largely due to its strength in the life sciences. The Queensland capital has benefited from state investment of $3.4 billion in research capacity over the last decade that has attracted and retained talented young scientists.

Joining UQ in the top 10 are Monash University (second) and The University of Melbourne (fourth) from Victoria, Australian National University (third), and two institutions from New South Wales: University of New South Wales (fifth) and The University of Sydney (sixth). The Universities of Western Australia and Adelaide are eight and ninth respectively, and Curtin University in Perth - tipped as a rising star by the Nature Index in July this year – is tenth.

“The index’s data illustrate that Australia’s high-quality research output is increasingly being driven by these hotspots of innovation, like in Melbourne and Sydney, where institutions are clustered together and can collaborate easily,” said David Swinbanks, founder of the Nature Index.

The Nature Index 2016 Australia and New Zealand supplement also found that New Zealand is taking full advantage of its unique geology and natural environment to produce high-quality research, lifting the island nation of 4.5 million people alongside much larger countries in the global standings. Overall, it is 30th in the index’s global tables, but climbs to 15th when measuring output in Earth and environmental sciences.

“The index shows that many of New Zealand’s research strengths are rooted in the benefits and challenges of its position on the globe. University of Otago, on the seismically active South Island, is a leader in tectonic research, and New Zealand’s proximity to Antarctica has also led to its impressive performance in climate science, work that Victoria University of Wellington has been at the forefront of for decades. For the University of Auckland, our data show that it excels in the life sciences, including drug discovery and bioengineering,” added Dr Swinbanks.

More information about the Nature Index is available at natureindex.com.


For more information contact:

Mark Staniland
Senior Communications Manager, Nature Research
T: +44 (0)207 014 6630
E: mark.staniland@nature.com

Notes to editors:

Interactive city maps – Melbourne and Sydney
You are welcome to link to our interactive maps, which are available here. They show the strength of partnerships between institutions in each city, based on their number of joint papers in the 68 journals selected for inclusion in the Nature Index.

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 68 high-quality natural science journals, which have been selected by independent panels of active scientists.

Responses from over 2,800 individuals to a large scale survey were used to validate the selections. Springer Nature estimates that these 68 journals account for nearly 30% of total citations to natural science journals.

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, 8,000 institutions and 150 countries. On the index website, an institution's output of articles organised by broad subject area can be viewed across the most recent 12 month period. International and domestic collaborations are shown for each institution. The website also presents annual league tables of institutions and countries going back to 2012. Upon free registration of 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 three 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.

• Weighted Fractional Count (WFC) - applies a weighting to FC to adjust for an overrepresentation of papers from astronomy and astrophysics. The four journals in these disciplines publish about 50% of all papers in international journals in this field — approximately five times the equivalent figures for other fields. Therefore, although the data for astronomy and astrophysics are compiled in exactly the same way as for all other disciplines, articles from these journals are assigned one-fifth the weight of other articles.

About Nature Research
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