Meet the world’s 3,215 hottest researchers

Meet Stacey B Gabriel, the high-flying director of the genomics platform at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard in the United States. She’s a global scientist with multiple hot papers – 23 in all – and tops the latest list of the world’s 3,215 highly cited researchers, published by Thomson Reuters.

With the list, Thomson Reuters might shift the global focus somewhat from the institutional level of university rankings, to individual researchers.

In a report titled “The World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds", Thomson Reuters said that within the list was a “small subset” of people who had published the most ‘hot papers’ – ranked in the top 0.1% by citations in their field.

This is the annual ScienceWatch selection of ‘Hottest Researchers’, topped by Gabriel. “In addition to being highly cited over the last decade, these individuals have produced recent work, within the last two years, that’s made a notable impact on their peers.

“They are the authors of multiple hot papers, the publishers of research and experiments that fellow scientists find groundbreaking and influential,” says the report, and continues later:

“This year’s roster of hot authors features an unmistakable concentration in genomics; 12 of the 17 hottest-of-the-hot researchers fall within this area. And all but one of them are currently affiliated with one of two institutions: the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Boston; and Washington University in St Louis, Missouri.”

Stacey B Gabriel topped the list with 23 papers. The Broad Institute genomics platform director, who has a degree in molecular biology from Carnegie Mellon University and a PhD in human genetics from Case Western Reserve University, has research interests in using genomic techniques to understand the genetic component of common disease.

She is followed by Broad Institute colleagues Matthew Meyerson with 22 papers and Gad Getz with 21 papers, the same number as Richard K Wilson of Washington University. Broad’s Eric S Lander and Washington’s Elaine Mardis both authored 20 hot papers.

The first non-genomics scientist on the hot-list is Gregory YH Lip, a cardiologist at the University of Birmingham with 17 papers, followed by two materials scientists with 16 papers each – Hua Zhang of Nanyang Technological University and Yi Cui of Stanford.

The list

The new list of more than 3,000 names is bound to generate much attention.

Some universities had already been stating that they had staff on the list based on the 2013 pre-publication compilation, which has since been substantially corrected. Last week more institutions made announcements.

The Highly Cited Researchers list covers 21 fields of science and the social sciences and is derived from InCites Essential Science Indicators, a subset of the Web of Science. These researches wrote the greatest number of reports that ranked among the top 1% most cited for their field and year of publication – between 2002 and 2012.

According to ScienceWatch, the new compilation of Highly Cited Researchers updates a previous site, originally known as ISIHighlyCited, which was launched in 2001.

“The older collection identified researchers according to total citations to their work. This time, Thomson Reuters analysts decided on a different approach, relying on the Highly Cited Papers compiled by Essential Science Indicators.”

Impact or measure of influence is based on citations on which they have developed an Essential Science Indicator, on their web-page described as: “can determine the influential individuals, institutions, papers, publications and countries in their field of study – as well as emerging areas that could impact their work”.

The listings at the Highly Cited Researchers site can be searched by researchers’ first and last names, by primary and secondary institutional affiliations, and by main subject category.

Some institutional runs provide a lot of comparisons between countries and institutions, measuring frequencies. Broken down by scientific field, the comparisons reveal a lot about the strategic prioritisation of countries and institutions. Bringing in the time dimension would make comparisons even more interesting.

Some highlights

Universities in the United States are the primary institutional affiliations for 1,762 of the scientists on the list – 55% of the total.

The United Kingdom has 309 names on the list, China 170, Germany 167, Japan 101, France 93, Canada 91, The Netherlands 81, Australia 78, Switzerland 68, South Korea 24 and India 12. The five Nordic countries of Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Iceland together have 104 researchers on the list.

There are only five top-cited scientists in Africa, all of them in South Africa, and Russia also has only five names on the list – these researchers are either at a Russian university or at the Academy of Sciences.

In terms of cities, London is home to 61 highly cited scholars, Paris has 27, Zurich 26, Chicago 25, Hong Kong 23, Copenhagen 18, Singapore 17, Seoul has four, Berlin has three and Amsterdam and Munich each have one. In the United States, California has 225 highly cited researchers and Texas 61.

The lists broken down by fields also reveals interesting information.

For instance, out of 170 listed researchers, China has 36 names each in the fields of engineering and materials science, 28 in chemistry, 18 in mathematics, and 16 in physics – and including geosciences 85% of all listed scholars in China are in these six fields.

China has no listed scientist in the fields of space sciences, economics and business, psychiatry and psychology or social sciences, and only one in the fields of clinical medicine, immunology, biology and biochemistry, neuroscience and behaviour and agricultural sciences.

In the Nordic countries it is interesting that Iceland, with a population of 350,000 people, has 11 names on the list, with 10 affiliated to deCode Genetics. Norway, with 5.1 million people, only has eight names on the list. The Icelandic case might illustrate that the selection methods of Thomson Reuters is skewed towards biosciences and genetics.

Looking at institutions, Harvard University has 160 names on the list. There are 33 researchers in clinical medicine, 27 in molecular biology and genetics, 13 in neurosciences and behaviour and 12 in economy-business.

Harvard has only three names on the list in each of computer science and engineering, immunology, microbiology and materials sciences, two in geoscience and pharmacology and none in environment-ecology.

Cambridge University in the UK has eight out of 29 names listed in molecular biology and genetics and four each in biology and biochemistry, and neurosciences and behaviour. University College London has 18 names on the list with six in neuroscience and behaviour and three each in environment-ecology and pharmacy-toxicology.

Erasmus University Rotterdam has six out of 15 listed researchers in clinical medicine, three in microbiology, three in molecular biology and genetics and one in psychiatry-psychology.

Ghent University in Belgium has 13 top-cited researchers, eight in plant and animal sciences and four each in agriculture and environment-ecology.