The top 10 countries that dominate natural sciences research

The United States reigns as the colossus, but China is taking up ever more space, squeezing out European stalwarts.

1 July 2019

Nature Index

Ernesto Del Aguila III, National Human Genome Research Institute, NIH

The National Institutes of Health, with its zebrafish genome library pictured here, is one of the most prolific research institutions in the US.

The United States is ranked at number one, but of its institutions, 48.8% had lower fractional count (FC) in 2018 than in 2015, compared with only 31% of Chinese institutions with lower FC for the period.

Princeton University posted the biggest rise of all US institutions in FC from 2015 to 2018 with 27, followed by the University of California, Irvine (24) and Northwestern University (23).

China is ranked at number two, and Germany at number three.

Germany is Europe's strongest science country in the Nature Index, with two institutions in the global top 10 (the Max Planck Society ranked 3rd and the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres ranked 7th). The country's slight overall decline was most marked in the physical sciences, which recorded a 5.2% fall.

Life sciences, the United Kingdom's strongest subject field, rose by 3.5%. The country's overall output fell by 4.2%, placing it in fourth.

The University of Oxford, its highest ranking institution in 2015 at 9th, has since dropped to 12th, while the University of Cambridge rose from 10th to 8th over the same period.


Nature Index.

Only China and Australia among the top 10 countries increased their adjusted FC in 2018.

Chemistry is China's strongest discipline by far, with high-quality research output nearly double that of the physical sciences, and three times that of both the life sciences and Earth and environmental sciences.


Nature Index.

Japan's decrease in adjusted FC was exceeded only by France's among the top 10 countries.

The University of Tokyo held onto 9th rank globally, but its 11.2% decrease was the largest among the top 10 global institutions.


Nature Index.

Read next:

The top 10 countries for scientific research in 2018

The top 10 research institutions for 2018


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