China overtakes UK in number of highly cited researchers

Mainland China has seen a huge surge in numbers of Highly Cited Researchers, while in Australia the number has more than tripled in six years. By contrast, numbers from the United Kingdom, Germany and the Netherlands have fallen, according to the Web of Science Group’s annual list of Highly Cited Researchers, released on Tuesday 19 November.

The list identifies scientists and social scientists who produced multiple papers ranking in the top 1% by citations for their field and year of publication, demonstrating significant research influence among their peers.

The methodology that determines the ‘who’s who’ of influential researchers draws on the data and analysis performed by bibliometric experts from the Institute for Scientific Information at the Web of Science Group, a Clarivate Analytics company.

There are 6,216 Highly Cited Researchers in various fields from nearly 60 nations on the new list.

The United States remains home to the highest number of Highly Cited Researchers, with 2,737 authors, representing 44% of the researchers on the list.

Harvard University, home to 203 researchers, is the institution with the highest concentration of Highly Cited Researchers in the world. California is also a hotbed of talent, with 103 at Stanford University, and the University of California campuses at Berkeley, San Diego and Los Angeles all home to 50+ researchers each.

Mainland China has seen a very substantial increase, with 636 researchers named as Highly Cited Researchers compared to 482 in 2018. In the main 21 Essential Science Indicator (ESI) categories, there has been a three-fold increase in the number of researchers named since 2014.

As China increased its share of Highly Cited Researchers, other nations declined. The number of Highly Cited Researchers based at institutions in the UK has dropped to 516 this year, compared to 546 in 2018. Numbers of Highly Cited Researchers based in Germany and the Netherlands have also fallen.

The Highly Cited Researchers represent nearly 60 nations, but 85% are affiliated to institutions from just 10 nations and 72% from the first five, a remarkable concentration of top talent.

The nations with the most Highly Cited Researchers were the US with 2,737 (44%), followed by mainland China with 636 (10.2%), the UK with 516 (8.3%), Germany with 327 (5.3%), and Australia with 271 (4.4.%). The rest of the top 10 were Canada with 183 (2.9%), the Netherlands with 164 (2.6%), France with 156 (2.5%), Switzerland with 155 (2.5%) and Spain with 116 (1.9%).

Australia impresses

Australian research institutes continue to impress. The number of researchers recognised as Highly Cited has more than tripled in six years, from 80 in 2014 to 271 in 2019, among those selected in one or more of the 21 fields. Australian research institutions appear to have recruited a significant number of Highly Cited Researchers since 2014, while also increasing their number of homegrown Highly Cited Researchers.

This year’s list includes 23 Nobel laureates, including three announced this year: Gregg L Semenza of Johns Hopkins University (Physiology or Medicine), John B Goodenough of the University of Texas at Austin (Chemistry), and Esther Duflo of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Economics).

It also includes 57 Citation Laureates, individuals recognised by the Web of Science Group through citation analysis, who are ‘of Nobel class’ and potential Nobel Prize recipients.

A total of 3,517 researchers are celebrated for their performance in the 21 ESI fields, and 2,491 for cross-field performance, for a total of 6,008 unique researchers, as some Highly Cited Researchers appear in more than one field. This is the second year that researchers with cross-field impact – those with exceptional broad performance based on high impact papers across several fields – have been identified.

Of the researchers named as Highly Cited in the 21 ESI fields, 185, or 5%, appear in two ESI categories while an exceptional 11 researchers showed exceptional broad performance by being named as Highly Cited in three categories. They are based all over the globe – in North America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

David Pendlebury, senior citation analyst at the Institute for Scientific Information, said: “Recognition and support of these exceptional researchers represents an important activity for a nation or an institution’s plans for efficient and accelerated advancement.

“The Highly Cited Researchers’ list contributes to the identification of that small fraction of the researcher population that significantly extends the frontiers of knowledge. These researchers create gains for society, innovation and knowledge that make the world healthier, richer, more sustainable and more secure.”

Fourteen of the institutions with the most Highly Cited Researchers are located in the US, three in the UK, two in mainland China and one in Germany.

Top of the list of institutions with the most Highly Cited Researchers is Harvard University (US) with 203, followed by Stanford University (US) with 103, the Chinese Academy of Sciences (mainland China) with 101, the Max Planck Society (Germany) with 73, the Broad Institute (US) with 60, University of California, Berkeley (US) with 58, Washington University in St Louis (US) with 55, and then four US universities at joint eighth with 54. These are Duke University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and the University of California, San Diego.

The rest of the top 20 places are filled by the University of California, Los Angeles (US) with 52, Yale University (US) with 51, Cambridge University (UK) with 50, Columbia University (US) with 47, Johns Hopkins University (US) with 45, the University of Oxford (UK) with 44, Cornell University (US) with 42, Tsinghua University (mainland China) with 42, and University College London (UK) with 40.

The data are taken from 21 broad research fields within Essential Science Indicators, a component of InCites. The fields are defined by sets of journals and exceptionally, in the case of multidisciplinary journals such as Nature and Science, by a paper-by-paper assignment to a field based on an analysis of the cited references in the papers.

This percentile-based selection method removes the citation advantage of older papers relative to recently published ones, since papers are weighed against others in the same annual cohort.

The full 2019 Highly Cited Researchers’ list and executive summary can be found here, and the methodology can be found here.