What Are Special Topics?

About the Methodology Behind Special Topics

A laboratory technician examines blood samples for HIV/AIDS in a 
        public hospital in Valparaiso city, November 14, 2008. REUTERS/Eliseo 

What are Special Topics?

Special Topics, from ScienceWatch.com, is designed to complement Essential Science IndicatorsSM from Thomson Reuters in providing citation analyses and commentary for selected scientific research areas that have experienced notable recent advances or are of special current interest.

Each topic is prefaced with a description of its relation to the main Essential Science Indicators rankings and the methodology used to assemble the data from the Essential Science Indicators database. Occasionally, the data are drawn from the Web of Science® database rather than the Essential Science Indicators database—in each case, the source data is clearly noted.

A new topic is added every other month. The data presented for each topic include citation rankings for scientists, institutions, nations, and journals. The top 20 ten- and two-year papers are presented, as well as corresponding Research Front Map composed of papers in the core front.

Most Special Topics also feature interviews and essays by prominent scientists in the area.



Click the tabs above to read more information.

10- & 2-Year Papers

Reviewing highly cited papers can help to determine what research areas within a Special Topic have had a significant impact over a given period of time. Special Topics lists the 20 most-cited papers over the past decade and over the past two years, based on a set of criteria uniquely tailored to each individual Topic. Details of these criteria are given within each Topic.

By examining highly cited papers over both the past decade and over the most recent two-year period, we can make observations and comparisons regarding long-term trends and more recent activity that has the potential to be the next long-term trend.

Scientists, Institutions, Journals, & Nations

Citation tables allow us to map compelling trends:
  • Are there particular nations or institutions that might be expected to dominate research in the Topic area, and do the numbers bear out these expectations, or are there surprises?
  • Who are the leading scientists and where are they located?

While these tables cannot offer a complete picture, the number of trends and anomalies that can be spotlighted or connected across categories is striking. The tables often lead to renewed perspectives to further explore and validate.

        more   Detailed overviews and discussion are available in most sections of every Topic starting in July/August 2010.

Field Distrubution

Modern scientific research is, in general, multidisciplinary in nature. It is rather rare for a researcher to work within the narrow confines of any one discipline. A molecular biologist could deal in cell biology, pathology, biochemistry, or any number of related fields. Materials science can encompass chemistry and physics.

The field distribution will show, for any given Topic, which disciplines have a shared interest in a particular research area, as well as to what degree these discipline influence the Topics in question.

Time Series

Currently, we provide graphical representation by papers, cites, and cites/paper in both one- and five-year intervals. The graphs instantly show anomalies and trends: did one year have a higher or lower output than average?

Research Front Maps

Research Front Maps are diagrammatic representations of the core papers comprising each front. They are selected from the current Research Front set that are relevant to the featured special topic.

Each circle represents a highly cited paper whose bibliographic information is displayed when the user clicks on the circle. The solid lines between circles represent the strongest co-citation links for each paper (that is, indicating that the papers are frequently cited together); weaker links are indicated by dashed lines. Papers close to each other on the map are generally more highly co-cited. The most recent paper(s) are indicated in pink. Annotations may have been added to the maps that represent the main research themes. These appear as labels attached to specific regions on the maps.

Within the Special Topics, we present those Research Front Maps most relevant to each individual Topic.

More Information

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Special Topics

Featured Image

A laboratory technician examines blood samples for HIV/AIDS in a public hospital in Valparaiso city, November 14, 2008. REUTERS/Eliseo Fernandez.

From the Special Topic of Meningitis, Published July 2010.