Research institutions and universities are typically located in the heart of cities, providing access to a talented pool of researchers, proximity to other scientific institutions, and industry connections. This location makes them critical players in driving urban economies. It’s not surprising that some of the world’s largest cities dominate the leading Science Cities based on research output in the Nature Index. Beijing, China’s capital city, sits atop 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 in the top 20.
Despite the clear scientific and economic advantages of having research institutions cluster in large cities, there are growing concerns about how science benefits populations living far from urban areas. Questions about this issue have contributed to urban-rural tensions in some countries, underlying national political trends such as populism. However, research can bring crucial progress and benefits to rural communities as well. This supplement identifies projects where the impact is evident.
From rooftop solar panels helping alleviate poverty in Chinese villages to research-backed interventions improving health outcomes for rural immigrant and Indigenous populations in the United States, scientists can show their worth through meaningful impact on the ground. Every example of science demonstrably changing lives in such settings can help reduce any resentment that might have grown between people living in cities and elsewhere.
This supplement acknowledges financial support from the Beijing Municipal Science & Technology Commission and Administrative Commission of Zhongguancun Science Park for producing this supplement. As always, Nature retains sole responsibility for all editorial content.