Research institutions and universities, typically located in the heart of cities, play a crucial role in driving urban economies by providing access to talented researchers, proximity to other scientific institutions, and industry connections. As a result, cities with top research output are often among the world’s leading Science Cities. For example, Beijing, China’s capital city, leads the list of Science Cities based on research output in the Nature Index, with its research institutions scoring a Share of 3,735 for publications in 82 natural-science journals tracked by the database.
However, there are growing concerns about how science benefits populations living far from urban areas. This has led to tensions between urban and rural communities and contributed to political trends such as populism. Despite this challenge, scientists can bring crucial progress and benefits to rural communities through their research. For instance, rooftop solar panels in Chinese villages help alleviate poverty while research-backed interventions improve the health of rural immigrant and Indigenous populations in the United States. Every example of science demonstrably changing lives in rural settings can help reduce any resentment that might have grown between people living in cities and elsewhere.
This supplement is made possible by financial support from the Beijing Municipal Science & Technology Commission and Administrative Commission of Zhongguancun Science Park. As always, Nature retains sole responsibility for all editorial content.