A brief guide to the Nature Index

The basics

The Nature Index is an open database of author affiliations and institutional relationships. The Index tracks contributions to research articles published in 82 high-quality natural-science journals, chosen based on reputation by an independent group of researchers.

The Nature Index provides absolute Count and fractional Share counts of article publication at the institutional and national level and, as such, is an indicator of global high-quality research output and collaboration. Data in the Nature Index are updated regularly, with the most recent 12 months made available under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) at natureindex.com. The database is compiled by Nature Portfolio, part of Springer Nature.

The output

Users of the Nature Index can track an institution’s output in the Nature Index and compare it with peer institutions by place, broad field and sector: globally, by country or by region; across the four broad fields of Chemistry, Life Sciences, Earth and Environmental Sciences and Physical Sciences; and by sector whether Academic, Government, Corporate, Healthcare or NPO/NGO.

Users can also identify which institutions and countries are collaborating with each other in research tracked by the Nature Index, the strength of these collaborations as indicated by output in the Nature Index, and how that is changing over time.

Article output for an institution, country, region or city is counted in two ways:

Count: A Count of one is assigned to an institution or location if one or more authors of the research article are from that institution or location, regardless of how many co-authors there are from outside that institution or location.

Share: Nature Index’s signature metric, Share, is a fractional count that takes into account the proportion of authors from an institution or country/region and the number of affiliated institutions per article. For calculation of Share, all authors are considered to have contributed equally to the article. The maximum combined Share for any article is 1.0.

Journal and article selection

The journals included in the Nature Index are selected, irrespective of publisher, by actively publishing researchers in the natural sciences.

Researchers were asked to list the journals in which they would most like to publish their best work in order of preference, to a maximum of ten. They were asked to focus on their perception of the journals’ content, rather than measures such as the Journal Impact Factor. The process was most recently undertaken in 2018. The journal selection process took place independently of Springer Nature and Nature Portfolio. The journals chosen by the scientists that are published by Springer Nature account for approximately 20% of articles in the Nature Index.

It is intended that the list of journals amounts to a reasonably consensual upper echelon of journals in the natural sciences. It includes both multidisciplinary journals and some of the most highly selective journals within the main disciplines of the natural sciences. The journals included in the Nature Index represent less than 4–5% of the journals covering natural sciences in the Web of Science (Clarivate Analytics) but account for close to 30% of total citations to natural science journals.

The limitations

The Nature Index tracks a small proportion of the total number of research articles published, and they cover the natural sciences only. There are many factors that determine an institution’s output in the Nature Index. The size of the institution is a major factor, as is the composition of research specialities within the institution. The Nature Index does not attempt to normalize data for such factors. Rather it presents raw data that can contribute to an analysis.

Nature Index recognizes, in line with the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment, that multiple factors must be considered when benchmarking research quality and institutional performance, and that outputs from scientific research not only include journal articles, but data, software, intellectual property and highly trained young scientists.

Nature Index metrics alone should not be used to assess institutions or individuals. We encourage users to use the free-to-access Nature Index data along with other information, measures and tools.