Research institutions, often located in urban centers, have become integral components of driving an urban economy due to their access to a rich talent pool of researchers and proximity to other scientific institutions and industry. This is why some of the world’s largest cities dominate the leading Science Cities based on research output in the Nature Index, with Beijing again sitting at the top of this list in 2022.
However, there are growing concerns over how science benefits populations who live far from the hustle and bustle. In some countries, these questions have fed into the urban–rural tensions underlying national political trends. Despite this, research can bring crucial progress and benefits for rural communities, as identified in this supplement. From rooftop solar panels helping to alleviate poverty in Chinese villages to research-backed interventions improving the health of rural immigrant and Indigenous populations in the United States, scientists can show their worth through meaningful impact on the ground.
Every example of science demonstrably changing lives in such settings can only help to chip away at any resentment that might have grown between people living in cities and elsewhere. We are pleased to acknowledge the financial support of the Beijing Municipal Science & Technology Commission, Administrative Commission of Zhongguancun Science Park in producing this supplement. As always, Nature retains sole responsibility for all editorial content.