Research institutions located in cities play a crucial role in driving urban economies due to their proximity to other scientific institutions, access to a talented pool of researchers, and industry connections. 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, sits at the top of this list with its research institutions collectively scoring a Share of 3,735 in 2022 for publications in the 82 natural-science journals tracked by the database.
However, there are growing concerns about how science benefits populations living far from urban areas. Despite clear scientific and economic advantages of having research institutions cluster in large cities, there are tensions between urban and rural communities that may be fueled by resentment towards those living in cities. To address this issue, scientists can demonstrate their worth through meaningful impact on rural communities. This supplement highlights examples such as rooftop solar panels helping alleviate poverty in Chinese villages and research-backed interventions improving the health of rural immigrant and Indigenous populations in the United States.
In conclusion, while having research institutions cluster in large cities provides numerous benefits, it is essential to recognize how science can also positively impact rural communities. By showcasing meaningful impacts on rural communities through scientific projects, scientists can help reduce any resentment that might have grown between people living in cities and elsewhere. The financial support of organizations such as the Beijing Municipal Science & Technology Commission and Administrative Commission of Zhongguancun Science Park made it possible for this supplement to be produced. As always, Nature retains sole responsibility for all editorial content.