Research institutions and universities are typically situated in urban areas, providing access to a skilled workforce of researchers, proximity to other scientific institutions, and connections to industry. This location plays a vital role in driving the economies of cities. It is no wonder that some of the world’s largest cities dominate the leading Science Cities based on research output in the Nature Index. For example, 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.
However, despite the clear benefits of having research institutions located in cities, there are growing concerns about how science can benefit populations living far from urban areas. These concerns have contributed to tensions between urban and rural communities in some countries and underlying political trends such as populism. However, research can bring crucial progress and benefits to rural communities as well. This supplement highlights projects where these impacts are evident.
For instance, scientists are using rooftop solar panels to alleviate poverty in Chinese villages by providing an affordable source of energy for households and businesses. Additionally, research-backed interventions are improving the health of rural immigrant and Indigenous populations in the United States by addressing issues such as diabetes and mental health. These examples demonstrate how science can make a tangible difference in people’s lives outside of cities.
This supplement acknowledges the financial support of the 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.