Index shows continued US dominance over world science

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The USA is still the superpower of science, according to the first Nature Publishing Index (NPI) Global supplement. The NPI ranks countries and institutions according to their output of primary research articles in the 18 Nature research journals in 2012, and includes data from 2008 to 2011 for comparison.

US institutions claimed 32 of the top 50 positions in the ranking of the world’s top 200 institutions. The index found that Harvard University was the number one scientific institution in the world, with as many articles in Nature research journals in 2012 (368) as the whole of China (303). Stanford University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the University of Washington also featured in the global top 10.

The USA was followed in the rankings by the UK, Germany, Japan and France. China took sixth place. Its importance in scientific research has grown significantly over recent years, as another NPG index revealed last month ('China's research influence continues to rise, says NPG study'). China had nine institutions in the Top 200 in 2012 – up from three in 2011. The editors predict:  'It will be a surprise if France is not relegated to sixth by further Chinese improvement in 2013.'

The other 'countries to watch' – Brazil, Ireland, Kenya and Saudi Arabia – are currently publishing relatively small numbers of articles in Nature research journals, but are making gains. Ireland has jumped from 30th to 20th in the NPI between 2008 and 2012, while Brazil has moved up seven places to 27th. Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s fastest improvers with a marked increase in research articles and similarly Kenya has made an ascent up the NPI ranking to 38th place.