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The Milky Way illuminates the Marron Bells near Aspen, Colorado

The Milky Way illuminates the Marron Bells near Aspen, Colorado. Credit: Patrick Cullis/CIRES

Compared to other areas of research, Earth and environmental sciences generate much political controversy. The scrutiny they attract reflects the importance of these topics to our global future.

Our analysis reveals other distinctions. In Earth and environmental sciences, researchers at academic institutions account for a lower proportion of high-quality research than in the life sciences, physical sciences and chemistry, while the research output of government institutions is higher than for the other natural sciences. Moreover, the proportion of internationally collaborative articles is higher in Earth and environmental sciences than in the other fields tracked by the index.

The United States is still the largest producer of high-quality research in the field. But, China’s output is catching up, rising 95% between 2012 and 2017 to take over second place from the United Kingdom in the index (S3). The country’s science flagship, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, has the highest output in the field, according to the index.

This supplement marks an expanded presence for Earth and environmental sciences. The addition of five journals on the subject has doubled the number of articles on this topic in the index.

Climate change is the issue that looms largest. Just as we depended on scientists to identify the problem, we look to them for solutions that will help the Earth sustain life for the generations to come. As our coverage makes clear, there are no grounds for complacency.

Nature 558, S1 (2018)

doi: 10.1038/d41586-018-05490-6

This article is part of Nature Index 2018 Earth and Environmental Sciences, an editorially independent supplement. Advertisers have no influence over the content.

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