Science has traditionally flourished in the heart of cities, where access to a skilled workforce, proximity to other scientific institutions, and industry connections are abundant. As a result, cities play a critical role in driving economic growth. It is therefore unsurprising that some of the world’s largest metropolises dominate the leading Science Cities based on research output in the Nature Index. Beijing, China’s capital city, tops this list with its research institutions collectively scoring a Share of 3,735 in 2022 for publications in the 82 natural-science journals tracked by the database. Other major urban centers such as New York, Shanghai, Tokyo, Paris, Seoul, and London also feature prominently in the top 20.
While there are clear scientific and economic advantages to having research institutions located in cities, there are growing concerns about how science can benefit populations living far from urban areas. Some argue that this could exacerbate urban-rural tensions and contribute to national political trends such as populism. However, research has shown that it can bring crucial progress and benefits to rural communities as well. This supplement highlights several projects where this impact is evident. For example, rooftop solar panels have been installed in Chinese villages to alleviate poverty while research-backed interventions have improved the health of rural immigrant and Indigenous populations in the United States. By demonstrating tangible improvements on the ground through meaningful science projects, researchers can help reduce any resentment between urban dwellers and those living further afield.
This supplement was made possible with financial support from both the Beijing Municipal Science & Technology Commission and Administrative Commission of Zhongguancun Science Park. As always at Nature we maintain full editorial responsibility for all content within this supplement.