Research institutions and universities are typically located in the heart of cities, providing access to a talented pool of researchers, proximity to other scientific institutions, and industry connections. This makes them a critical component of urban economies. It is no surprise that some of the world’s largest cities dominate the leading Science Cities based on research output in the Nature Index. For instance, Beijing, China’s capital city, has its research institutions collectively scoring a Share of 3,735 in 2022 for publications in the 82 natural-science journals tracked by the database. Other major urban centers such as New York, Shanghai, Tokyo, Paris, Seoul, and London also feature in the top 20.
While there are clear scientific and economic benefits to having research institutions cluster in large cities, concerns about how science can benefit populations living far from urban areas have been growing. These concerns have contributed to tensions between urban and rural populations in some countries and underlying national political trends such as populism. However, this supplement identifies projects where science has demonstrably made a positive impact on rural communities.
For example, scientists have developed rooftop solar panels that help alleviate poverty in Chinese villages by providing clean energy sources for households and businesses. Similarly, research-backed interventions have improved the health of rural immigrant and Indigenous populations in the United States. Every example of science making a meaningful difference on the ground can help reduce any resentment that might exist between people living in cities and elsewhere.
This supplement acknowledges financial support from Beijing Municipal Science & Technology Commission and Administrative Commission of Zhongguancun Science Park for producing this supplement. As always, Nature retains sole responsibility for all editorial content