2015 - All Press Releases

Latest Nature Index supplement provides unique insight into extent of international collaboration on high-quality research

11 November 2015

The Nature Index 2015 Collaborations report, published as a supplement to Nature on 12 November, provides more evidence of the emergence of a 'Fourth Age' of scientific discovery where high-impact research is conducted through international
collaboration and demonstrates the benefits of participation in international networks for emergent research nations.

The Nature Index (www.natureindex.com) database tracks the author affiliations of nearly 60,000 high quality scientific
articles published per year from over 20,000 research institutions worldwide. The database has been compiled by Springer
Nature in collaboration with Digital Science, a technology company serving the needs of the science and research

The Collaborations report is the first of a new style of Nature Index supplement that further probes the data to answer questions about the role of collaboration in global science. The report brings data collected from the Index to life through in-depth editorials, interviews with leading academics from around the world and a series of stunning infographics, produced by data visualisation experts Small Multiples and Digital Science.

Nick Campbell, Executive Editor, Nature said: "With the Nature Index Collaborations, we expect to bring a brand new
perspective to help understand the relationships between institutions and countries in global science, and in particular what
drives high-quality, high-impact collaborations."

Some highlights from this supplement:

  • More than half of articles from UK institutions have a co-author from a second country.
  • Only about one third of articles from the US have a co-author from a second country.
  • Australia is moving from collaborating most often with European nations, particularly the UK, to expanding collaborations in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly China.
  • Spain and Portugal stand out in the European cluster for their links to Latin America, a new regional network with its own structure led by Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Argentina.
  • While the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) is the leading institution in the world in terms of WFC*, Peking and Tsinghua Universities are more internationally collaborative than CAS, based on the proportion of international affiliations appearing on articles their researchers contribute to. 
  • Seventy percent of Africa’s FC derives from collaborations with non-African countries. Collaborations within the continent are rare, although initiatives are in place to create more. 
  • Arabic-speaking countries, including Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, have stronger links to each other than they do with South Africa (see 'African network').
  • The data reveal a trend towards more collaborations between France and countries that are her former colonies, particularly with France’s leading institution, the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS). Industry makes a notable contribution to high-quality academic research: in 2014 commercial entities represented nearly a quarter of institutions in the index and contributed to nearly 7% of articles.

The supplement also shows the role that international collaborations have played in China’s continuing rise in scientific publishing, assesses whether location still plays an important role in industry–academia collaborations and questions whether
government policies are the best way to encourage international interdisciplinary collaborations.

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

The Nature Index 2015 Collaborations supplement is available here: www.nature.com/nature-index-collaborations.

Data visualisations from the supplement are available on request.

About the Nature Index

First launched in November 2014, articles included in the Nature Index are drawn from 68 natural science journals, which were
selected by two independent panels of active scientists, chaired by Professor John Morton (University College London) and Dr
Yin-Biao Sun (Kings College, London).

Responses to a large-scale survey were used to validate the selections. Springer Nature estimate that these 68 journals account for about 30% of total citations to natural science journals.

A rolling 12-month snapshot of data from the Nature Index is openly available under a Creative Commons license at
natureindex.com, so that users can analyse scientific research outputs themselves. On the index website, an institution's output of articles can be viewed across the 12-month data window and by broad subject area. International and domestic collaborations are also shown for each institution.

*The Nature Index uses three measures to track affiliation data for individuals:
• 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 total FC available per paper is 1, and this is shared between all authors under the assumption that each contributed equally. For instance, a paper with 10 authors means that each author receives an FC of 0.1. For authors who have worked with joint affiliations, the individual FC is then split equally between each affiliation.
• Weighted Fractional Count (WFC) - applies a weighting to the FC in order to adjust for the 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 the Fourth Age of scientific discovery

The idea of the 'Fourth Age' of scientific discovery was first proposed by Jonathan Adams, now Chief Scientist at Digital Science, in Nature (497).

About Springer Nature

Springer Nature is a leading global research, educational and professional publisher, home to an array of respected and trusted
brands providing quality content through a range of innovative products and services. Springer Nature is the world’s largest
academic book publisher, publisher of the world’s highest impact journals and a pioneer in the field of open research. The
company numbers almost 13,000 staff in over 50 countries and has a turnover of approximately €1.5 billion. Springer Nature
was formed in 2015 through the merger of Nature Publishing Group, Palgrave Macmillan, Macmillan Education and Springer
Science+Business Media. Find out more: www.springernature.com and follow @SpringerNature.

About Digital Science

Digital Science is a technology company serving the needs of scientific and research communities, at the laboratory bench or in a research setting. It invests in and incubates scientific software companies that simplify the research cycle, making more time for
discovery. Its portfolio companies include a host of leading and admired brands including Altmetric, BioRAFT, Figshare,
Labguru, Overleaf, ReadCube, Symplectic and ÜberResearch. It is operated by global media company the Holtzbrinck Publishing
Group. Visit http://www.digital-science.com and follow @digitalsci on Twitter.