Research institutions and universities are typically located in the heart of cities, offering numerous advantages such as access to a talented pool of researchers, proximity to other scientific institutions, and industry connections. This has made them critical drivers of urban economies, with many of the world’s largest cities leading the way in terms of research output.
According to the Nature Index, Beijing, China’s capital city, is at the top of the list for research output in 2022, with its research institutions scoring a Share of 3,735 for publications in 82 natural-science journals. Other major urban centers such as New York, Shanghai, Tokyo, Paris, Seoul, and London also feature prominently on this list.
While there are clear benefits to having research institutions clustered in large cities, concerns have been raised about how science can benefit populations living far from urban areas. These concerns have contributed to tensions between urban and rural populations in some countries and underlying national political trends. However, it is important to recognize that research can bring crucial progress and benefits to rural communities as well.
This supplement highlights several projects where science has had a meaningful impact on rural communities. For example, rooftop solar panels have been used in Chinese villages to alleviate poverty by providing clean energy. Research-backed interventions have also improved the health of rural immigrant and Indigenous populations in the United States. These examples demonstrate how science can make a real difference in people’s lives outside of urban areas and help reduce any resentment that may exist between city dwellers and those living elsewhere.
The production of this supplement was supported by financial assistance from the Beijing Municipal Science & Technology Commission and Administrative Commission of Zhongguancun Science Park. As always, Nature retains sole responsibility for all editorial content.