Rapid growth in high-quality research outputs shows China is consolidating position as scientific powerhouse

    The Nature Index 2018 Rising Stars supplement (attached) shows that Chinese institutions are leading the world in rapidly increasing high-quality research outputs. 51 of the top 100 most improved institutions across the globe are from this scientific powerhouse, with 28 of those showing growth above 50% since 2015. The United States is second, with 20 institutions in the top 100 despite many starting from a high base. Four institutions feature from Germany, and only two are from the United Kingdom.

    The supplement identifies the countries and institutions showing the most significant growth in high-quality research output using the power of the Nature Index, which tracks the research of more than 8,000 global institutions. The top 100 most improved institutions in the index between 2015 and 2017 are ranked by the increase in their contribution to 82 high-quality journals. (See ‘About the Nature Index’ for full definitions of measures.)

    The dominance of Chinese research is even more apparent when looking at the top 10 most improved institutions. The top 10 is occupied by nine Chinese institutions including the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences (first), which has seen its output of high-quality papers increase by more than any other institution. Tsinghua University (second), Shanghai Jiao Tong University (third) and Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech) (fourth) round out the top four places. The Indian Institutes of Technology is ranked seventh and is the only non-Chinese institution in the top ten.

    The supplement profiles six countries that have experienced the highest growth in contributions to the Nature Index, so-called “Challenger states”. Sitting alongside China, whose output has grown to nearly half of the world leader the United States, is Austria which has seen more growth among corporate institutions than academic institutions, and Norway whose contribution to Earth and Environmental Sciences is driving its growth. Brazil and Iran are both featured, as is the Czech Republic. While China is making waves among the traditional scientific powers, the other five nations are disrupting lower-tiered research strongholds.

    A special section on young universities, those established as universities after 1988, explores their progress in the research world. China’s SUSTech has quadrupled its contribution to the Nature index, making it the leading institution under 30. Other institutions profiled in this section include King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, which is the fastest-growing institution in Western Asia in this year’s index and Homi Bhabha National Institute, which is the top-ranked rising Indian institute for physical sciences in the index.

    Nature Index 2018 Rising Stars also profiles 11 up-and-coming researchers in the natural sciences. These scientists are highlighted based on their recent contributions to the 82 journals tracked by the Nature Index, and their standing in the League of Scholars Whole-of-Web ranking, which assesses individuals on their research quality and impact, industry links and co-authorship networks. They include researchers such as Sarah Garfinkel, a cognitive neuroscientist based at Brighton and Sussex Medical School, Jaemin Kim from Stanford University who specializes in wearable electronics, and Giorgio Vacchiano, an ecologist from the University of Milan, working on how to use forests to mitigate climate change.

     David Swinbanks, Founder of the Nature Index, said “While China continues to dominate in performance in the Nature Index, there are notable rising stars elsewhere throughout the world particularly among the 30 younger top risers profiled, which come from Iran, Spain, UK, Switzerland, Japan, Luxembourg, South Korea, Austria, Norway, the United States, Singapore, Finland, India and France as well as China.”

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