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Germany maintains position as research giant, but gender equality and diversity are still a challenge

The Nature Index Germany supplement finds that strong and steady science funding and long-term investment in basic research are key to Germany’s success

London | Sydney | Berlin, 25 November 2020

Germany retains its position as one of the world’s research heavyweights, behind the US and China, based on output of high-quality publications as tracked by the Nature Index. This can be attributed to strong and steady science funding and long-term investment in basic research. However, a lack of diversity and slow adaptation to contemporary research directions could challenge Germany’s prolific research record going forward. These, and further findings and analyses are discussed in the Nature Index Germany supplement, published today.

Within Germany, three flagship research institutions hold the top positions in terms of high-quality research output in journals tracked by the Nature Index: the Max Planck Society, the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres and the Leibniz Association, followed by three universities, Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich, Technical University of Munich, and Heidelberg University. A full list of the top 50 institutions is included in the supplement. Also explored in the supplement is Germany's thriving start-up scene, which is raising record levels of funding. Many start-ups have been spun out of universities and this supplement looks at who is leading some of the most exciting German technology start-ups. 

Although science organisations in Germany are thriving under funding certainty, there are concerns that some universities might be left behind. Diversity in the research landscape is also still an issue – in 2016 only 19.4 percent of senior academic staff, and only 15.4 percent of start-up founders in 2020 were female. However, the supplement shows how Germany’s Clusters of Excellence initiative has helped attract international researchers to the country.

Further data analysis and infographics from the Nature Index, such as Germany’s Share* by sector and subject, are also included in the accompanying supplement.

David Swinbanks, Founder of the Nature Index, said: “This supplement highlights Germany’s substantial contribution to high-quality research published worldwide. Germany’s success demonstrates the benefits that long-term investment in basic research and steady science funding can bring. Our analysis indicates that innovation and research spinoff companies also play an important part in the research process and in commercialising research. However, Germany’s path forward is not without hurdles. A much needed improvement in the diversity of research institutions and universities could help secure Germany’s position as research powerhouse in the years to come.”

*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, city, or country/region. For the calculation of Share, all authors are considered to have contributed equally to the article, and the maximum combined Share for any article is 1.0.

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

Further Information

The Nature Index Germany is available here 

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 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.

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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.

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Elizabeth Hawkins | Springer Nature | Communications
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