Nature Asia-Pacific has just launched the Nature-Asia Publishing Index, which analyses the papers published in all of the Nature group of journals by researchers working at institutions in the Asia-Pacific region, including India and Australasia. The data is interesting, because the Nature journals are very important primary research journals, so they give some idea of the spread of high-quality basic research in the region, both by country and by institution. It’s not surprising that Japan is still top, by a significant margin, but Singapore does very well for its size, and China is moving up rapidly.
The other interesting thing here is the value of this to the Nature group. Because the index undeniably does have value, policy-makers in the region are likely to use it. That means that moving up the index is likely to directly benefit institutions. And that means that, all else being equal, researchers at those institutions are going to submit to a Nature journal, rather than one that isn’t in the index. In other words, it should give the Nature journals a slight edge over journals of comparable Impact Factor in the competition for the best papers from the Asia-Pacific region. I do wonder how much that drove the decision making. The commercial benefit is likely to be minimal; the journals are already important enough that no serious institution could manage without a subscription. However, the prestige benefit could be quite important.
Incidentally, five of the top ten institutions in the region are Japanese. The University of Tokyo, Kyoto University, Osaka University, RIKEN, and Tohoku University. Kyushu and Keio are at eleven and twelve.
The data did immediately make me wonder what a global version of the index would look like. The USA would dominate in much the way that Japan dominates this one, but the lower places would be more interesting. I wonder whether the rest of the Nature group is thinking about doing something similar.