It’s hard to quantify the total contribution of a university or research group to science, but the Nature Index is one of the more reliable options. It is basically a database of author affiliation information collated from research articles published in a selection of 68 high-quality science journals. These are the ten most significant institutions in 2015:
1. Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), China
Weighted fractional count (WFC): 1357.82
The Chinese Academy of Sciences isn’t what most people would expect to see at the head of such a list, but with China growing in virtually every aspect, it was bound to happen. The sheer difference of points is also huge, with CAS scoring almost twice as much as the second place, Harvard.
CAS is the world’s largest scientific organisation, comprising 114 institutes and 48,500 researchers. In 2015 its scientists made the largest contribution to high-quality research included in the index, a contribution that’s grown by a compound annual growth rate of 6.8% since 2012 and will likely continue to grow.
2. Harvard University, United States
Harvard is bound to be at the front of any university top, especially due to their contribution in the life sciences. Recognising the growth of interdisciplinary research areas such as translational medicine in the life sciences, Harvard has responded by developing an integrated PhD programme that facilitates cross-disciplinary academic and research collaboration. The Harvard Medical School is one of the most reputable schools in the world, being a benchmark for the entire planet since it was founded in 1782. Recently, their interdisciplinary programs are also proving to be wildly successful.
The French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) is the largest fundamental research organisation in Europe, with over 30,000 researchers. CNRS engineers have created and are operating many of the machines on the Curiosity rover, currently exploring NASA. The mission lead to the confirmation late last year that liquid water currently flows on the planet.
4. Max Planck Society, Germany
Europe is standing strong on this list, again with some physical, pure research. Since 1914, physics researchers at Max Planck, a government-funded association of research institute, have won nine Nobel Prizes, and year after year, they are offering valuable contributions to the development of physical sciences.
Material science is one of the key points of the Max Planck institutes and today, two institutes stand out in terms of research output in the index: the polymer and solid state research units.
5. Stanford University, United States
Stanford’s first president, David Starr Jordan, said:
“Work in applied science is to be carried out side-by-side with the pure sciences and humanities, and to be equally fostered.”
Today, the same attitude is still respected as research output is equally balanced between all the disciplines. The university was also noted for its entrepreneurial spirit.
6. University of Tokyo, Japan
The University of Tokyo can pride itself with giving last year’s Nobel Prize for Physics to Takaaki Kajita, the director of the University of Tokyo’s Institute for Cosmic Ray Research. But UTokyo is not resting on its laurels. He and his team are still working on the project, and the university is involved in a decade-long project with four countries to establish the presence of a giant ocean that wraps Saturn’s moon, Enceladus, beneath its crust.
7. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, United States
This year marks a hundred years since the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) moved from Boston to Cambridge in the US – a city whose name seems destined for science. The university’s is known for its hands-on approach to teaching and research – students are given a practical-based education in science, technology and related areas of scholarship – appears to be on the money.
A 2015 report suggested that 30,000 companies founded by MIT alumni were active as of 2014, employing 4.6 million people and producing annual revenues of $1.9 trillion, equivalent to the world’s 10th largest economy.
8. Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres, Germany
Germany’s largest science organization has an annual budget of nearly €4 billion. Their research output is dominated by the physical sciences, and last year the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) had the biggest impact on the association’s overall ranking in the index.
9. University of Oxford, United Kingdom
The two big British rivals complete the top 10 list.
In the 21st century, the university focuses on a wide range of fascinating aspects of the life sciences from clinical practice in modern medicine to epidemiological and genetic studies. For example, researchers are currently exploring the negative effects of loud noise in an intensive care unit.
10. University of Cambridge, United Kingdom
One of the key contributors to the university’s research output is the Cavendish Laboratory, which is the largest physics department in the UK and birthplace of ground-breaking discoveries such as the structure of DNA, and the splitting the atom. According to Professor Andy Parker, head of the Cavendish Laboratory: “The laboratory’s strength comes from the very wide range of research performed, from cosmology, through solid state and nanoscience, to the physics of medicine, backed up by world-class facilities, and the freedom given to its staff to pursue their own directions. This bottom-up approach to research strategy has proved its worth over many decades.”
“The laboratory’s strength comes from the very wide range of research performed, from cosmology, through solid state and nanoscience, to the physics of medicine, backed up by world-class facilities, and the freedom given to its staff to pursue their own directions. This bottom-up approach to research strategy has proved its worth over many decades.”