Of Schemes and Memes Blog

Science In The City

A new interactive ‘Special’ in the online version of Nature, and partly reproduced in print, looks at the special relationship between scientists and cities. In a fascinating series of articles and graphics, the story of metropolitan research is told with the aid of some addictive data visualisations.

The first place to start is the interactive piece by Richard Van Noorden. Two visualisations here will have you playing for hours. The first shows the number of publications per city and their relative citation impact, based on Scopus data. By sliding a scroll bar, it’s possible to engage a third dimension of time, thus showing how publication records have changed in any given city. So, for example, we see that Tokyo was the most prolific city in 2000. It was overtaken by Beijing in 2005, which now vastly dominates in terms of prolificness. That city, however, gets relatively little bang for its buck. Cambridge/Boston in the USA hit the roof of the graphic for citation impact, a position they’ve maintained since 2000. The second visualisation is a Google Earth embed showing number of publications in the journals Nature, Science and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences per city.

The infographics are backed up with a selection of news features and commentaries. As well as a general introductory piece, articles consider the future growth of cities, how to get the best research out of a city, and how cities will be at the forefront of the battle to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Nature Network has long focused on the city as a convenient geographical unit for discussing science. Indeed this site originated in 2006 as a set of Boston-specific pages to help local scientists communicate and collaborate. Since then, we’ve maintained a city focus, with local hub pages for London, Boston and New York as well as dedicated forums for cities such as Toronto, Cambridge and San Francisco.

Recently, we started a new venture to map the universities, institutions, museums and sites of historic scientific interest in cities (and wider territories) around the world, which were also linked to in the Nature piece. So far, Nature Network readers have mapped eleven, including all the hubs mentioned above as well as Hong Kong, Canberra and Munster. We’re always looking to expand the series, so do get in touch if you’d be interested in creating a map.

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