Universities and research institutes are often situated in the heart of cities, offering numerous advantages such as access to a talented pool of researchers, proximity to other scientific institutions, and industry connections. This makes them critical players in driving urban economies, with some of the world’s largest cities leading the way in terms of research output. According to the Nature Index, Beijing, China’s capital city, is at the top of this list, with its research institutions 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 prominently.
Despite these clear benefits of science in cities, there are growing concerns about how it can impact populations living far from urban areas. These issues have contributed to tensions between urban and rural communities in some countries and have underlying political trends such as populism. However, research can bring crucial progress and benefits to rural communities as well. For instance, rooftop solar panels have been installed in Chinese villages to alleviate poverty while research-backed interventions have improved the health of rural immigrant and Indigenous populations in the United States.
This supplement highlights specific examples where science has made a tangible impact on rural communities around the world. Every instance where scientists demonstrate their worth through meaningful progress on the ground helps reduce any resentment that might exist between city dwellers and those living further away from metropolitan areas. We hope that these projects serve as inspiration for scientists and policymakers alike to continue working towards bringing scientific advancements to all communities regardless of their location.
The production of this supplement was made possible through financial support from various organizations including the Beijing Municipal Science & Technology Commission and Administrative Commission of Zhongguancun Science Park. As always, Nature retains sole responsibility for all editorial content related to this supplement.