If Science Watch’s content usually
reflects humankind's higher aspirations to advance knowledge
and improve life, then the subject at hand surely represents
the opposite impulse: bioterrorism.
Science Watch herewith examines highly cited research
on bioterrorism over the last decade. A data extraction based
on a special list of pertinent keywords produced upwards of
12,000 bioterrorism-related papers published in
Reuters-indexed journals between 1999 and 2008. From this
set of papers, Science Watch identified the most-cited
institutions, authors, and journals.
The two tables below rank institutions according to two
separate measures: in table #1, by
total citations, and, table #1b, by
average citations per paper (among those institutions that
fielded 25 or more papers pertaining to bioterrorism during the
decade). Highly cited authors and journals are highlighted in
the table to the right..
in Bioterrorism Research,
citations to papers
published and cited
1999 and 2008)
The most-cited paper in this collection dates from 2001 and
reports the genome sequence of Yersinia pestis, the
causative agent of plague (S. Baker, et al.,
Nature, 413: 523-7, 2001; now cited nearly 500 times).
The next-most-cited paper appeared in the New England
Journal of Medicine with the succinct title "Anthrax"
(T.C. Dixon, et al., 341: 815-26, 1999)—two
years before the incidents in the fall of 2001 in which
anthrax-tainted mail killed five people; this paper has now
been cited more than 400 times.
Ranking at #3 is another report from 1999, published in
JAMA: "Smallpox as a biological weapon: Medical and
public health management," (M.S. Ascher, et al., 281:
2127-37, 1999; with more than 375 citations to date). This is
just one of a prominent core of highly cited JAMA
papers published between 1999 and 2002 by the Working Group on
Civilian Biodefense, a body whose 20-odd members included
academic, government, and military experts in biomedicine,
public health, and emergency management. Along with the
smallpox study, the Working Group produced similarly titled
papers examining the potential bio-weapon implications of
anthrax, tularemia, plague, botulinum toxin, and hemorrhagic
Other topics within the larger body of papers include
examinations of the specific sequences and basic biochemical
actions of anthrax and other agents; the development of
bio-sensors and detection devices based on microarrays,
nanotubes, and other technologies; assessments of health and
environmental fallout from the 9/11 attacks; and general
discussions of readiness and emergency management.
Among institutions in table #2 below,
the U.S. Army distinguishes itself by the measure of total
citations, posting nearly 10,000. Contributing to the high
placement is this survey's most-cited author, Arthur M.
Friedlander, of the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for
Infectious Diseases. Among many other papers, Friedlander
contributed to the reports from the Working Group on Civilian
Biodefense. (Other names among the numerous Working Group
contributing authors in the table are Inglesby, Eitzen,
Bartlett, Henderson, Parker, Tonat, Russell, Ascher, Perl,
Osterholm, Hauer, McDade, Layton, Hughes, and Lillibridge.)
By the measure of citations per paper, The Institute for
Genomic Research (TIGR) scores highest, thanks in part to its
participation in a 2002 report on the sequence of Bacillus
anthracis Ames—a strain that causes inhalational
anthrax, implicated in the 2001 attacks—and its
comparison to closely related bacteria (T.D. Read, et
al., Nature, 423: 81-6, 2002, with more than 340
citations). Friedlander also contributed to this report, as did
some of the other authors featured here: Timothy D. Read,
Philip C. Hanna, and TIGR's then-president, Claire M.
Christopher King is the Editor of the Science
Watch® Newsletter, Thomson
KEYWORDS: BIOTERRORISM, TERRORISM, BIOWEAPONS, BIODEFENSE,
ANTHRAX, SMALLPOX,TULAREMIA, PLAGUE, U.S. ARMY, THE INSTITUTE
FOR GENOMIC RESEARCH, ARTHUR M. FRIEDLANDER, CLAIRE M.
FRASER-LIGGETT, WORKING GROUP ON CIVILIAN BIODEFENSE.