5 leading universities in the Nature Index for chemistry, environmental, physical, and life sciences

Are these some of busiest labs in the world?

17 March 2020

Gemma Conroy

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George Church of Harvard Medical School with the MAGE Device Multiplex automated Genome Engineering.

Harvard University dominates the Nature Index Top 500 Academic Institutions and life sciences rankings, placing first in both.

Japan’s University of Tokyo is the only university among our global top five to see a decline in its output in all four subjects in the 82 journals tracked by the Nature Index.

Below is a breakdown of the top five universities (Harvard, Stanford, MIT, Cambridge, and The University of Tokyo) in natural sciences research and their performance over time in chemistry, Earth and environmental sciences, physical sciences, and life sciences.

Mouse over for details on Share+, rank, and year.


In the 2019 Annual Tables, MIT was the only university among the global top five to increase its Nature Index Share for chemistry, which grew by 2.5% between 2017 and 2018.

In just one year, the university jumped three spots to rank five, jostling Stanford University (now ranked seventh) and The University of Tokyo (now ranked 13th) out of fifth and sixth place.

The University of Tokyo’s chemistry output fell by almost 17% in the 2019 Annual Tables, representing the largest decline among the five universities.

Life sciences

In addition to placing first in the Nature Index 2019 Academic Top 500 list, Harvard University maintained its position as the leading academic institution in the life sciences for the fourth year running.

While Harvard’s Share in the subject declined by almost 8% between 2017 and 2018, it is still more than double that of Stanford, which has remained in second place.

Cambridge (ranked sixth) jumped four places over the same period, its life sciences Share grew by 11.6%, the largest increase among the five universities.

Physical sciences

MIT took the top place in the physical sciences in the Nature Index 2019 Annual Tables, knocking The University of Tokyo (ranked three) down two places.

MIT also saw the largest rise in the subject among the five universities, its Share increasing by 3.2% between 2017 and 2018. But Stanford is hot on its heels at second place, its Share up by 2.5% in just one year.

The University of Tokyo’s physical sciences Share dropped by 7.8% in the same period, the largest decline among the top five universities. Harvard was not far behind, its Share falling by 7.4%.

Earth and environmental sciences

The University of Cambridge was the only global top five university to increase its Share in Earth and environmental sciences in the Nature Index 2019 Annual Tables, by an impressive 45.6%.

Cambridge (ranked 21st) almost doubled its Share in the subject, jostling with The University of Tokyo (ranked 20th) for a place among our top 20 Earth and environmental sciences universities.

Harvard (ranked 33rd) saw the biggest decline among the leading five, with its Earth and environmental sciences Share falling by more than 23%.

For more rankings, see the Nature Index 2019 Academic Top 500 list.

+Share, formerly referred to in the Nature Index as Fractional Count (FC), is a measure of an institution's contribution to articles in the 82 journals tracked by the index, calculated according to the proportion of its affiliated authors on an article relative to all authors on the article.


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