Rising stars: Chinese institutions lead the way

26 July 2016

NYU Shanghai

Xing Tian and Qing Cai at the NYU-ECNU Institute of Brain and Cognitive Science study perception, action, language and their underlying mechanisms.

China is a growing source of the world's top science.

This week we're highlighting some of the research world's ascendant performers ahead of the publication of the Nature Index 2016 Rising Stars supplement on July 28. The magazine profiles countries and institutions whose performance in the index is improving rapidly. Some made the grade by improving most in their country, and others were highlighted for their meteoric rise up the index’s global rankings.

One impressive performer is East China Normal University (ECNU) in Shanghai, which evolved from a teacher training university to a multi-disciplinary institute and is fast gaining a reputation for its world-class research. Between 2012 and 2015, the university’s contribution to articles in the index has more than doubled, lifting it more than 200 places in the Global 500 ranking to 142nd position in 2015. China has so many institutions in the latter category, we could have produced a whole magazine about them.

The university prides itself on its international collaborations, and its most recent partnerships have led to fruitful research. In 2011, ECNU and New York University joined forces to establish China’s first Sino-American university — New York University Shanghai (NYU Shanghai).

A 2015 study by researchers at NYU Shanghai’s Institute of Brain and Cognitive Science found physical evidence that the brain arranges words in a hierarchy using a form of ‘internal grammar’. The findings, published in Nature Neuroscience, suggest the human mind can intuitively configure a string of words such as ‘ancient history is drinking tea’ into a structure that has meaning, such as ‘drinking tea is ancient history’.

By Sarah O'Meara


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