The rise of Chinese cities in high-quality scientific research

City in China at night

The global landscape of scientific research is undergoing a significant transformation, with Chinese cities rapidly ascending in the production of high-quality research. This shift is evidenced by the latest global ranking of top science cities by Nature Index.

The “Leading 200 Science Cities” list

The “Leading 200 Science Cities” list, maintained by the academic journal Nature, tracks research output by measuring contributions to academic articles published in 82 of the world’s most influential natural science journals from 2015 to 2022.

In the 2023 edition of the list, a total of 32 cities in mainland China made the cut. Almost all of them climbed up the rankings compared to their positions on the previous year’s list, with the sole exception being Taiyuan, an inland city located in central China.

Remarkably, five out of the top 10 cities on the 2023 list are in mainland China, with Beijing retaining its position as the top science city in the world.

Methodology of the Nature Index

The Nature Index employs two different scores – “count” and “share” – to measure research output.

A city receives a count value of one for each article with at least one author affiliated with an institution in that city. The sum of these values constitutes the city’s count score.

For the share score, each article is assigned a value of one, which is split equally among all authors. For instance, for an article with 10 authors, each author receives a share value of 0.1. Each city’s share score is calculated by adding up the share values of the authors in that city.

Analysis of the top 20 cities

An analysis of the top 20 cities reveals a significant representation from China, with 10 cities contributing a share score of 12,374. In comparison, the U.S. has 6 cities with a share score of 7,673, followed by Japan, France, South Korea, and the UK, each with one city and share scores of 1,017, 868, 790, and 711 respectively.

Implications for Multinational Corporations

This shift in the global scientific landscape is having profound implications for multinational corporations (MNCs), particularly those in the chemical, new material, and pharma/biotech sectors.

Many of these companies are now collaborating with Chinese scientists at unprecedented levels, driven by the high-quality research output from Chinese cities. This trend is further facilitated by relatively nimble yet significant foreign direct investment (FDI) into China.

The rise of Chinese cities in high-quality scientific research is reshaping the global scientific landscape and influencing the strategies of multinational corporations. As this trend continues, it will be interesting to observe the long-term impacts on global scientific collaboration and innovation.

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