null The Hottest Research of 2011

Once again, ScienceWatch takes its annual look back at the hottest of recent research. Listed in the adjoining table are the researchers who, according to citations tracked during 2011, recorded the highest numbers of Hot Papers published over the preceding two years. Also listed are the papers published during 2011 (excluding reviews) that were most cited by year’s end.

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Among authors who fielded multiple Hot Papers during the course of 2011, the list is headed by a familiar name: Eric S. Lander of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. Lander, who also topped last year’s roundup, has become a virtual fixture on this annual roster, with this year marking his eighth appearance. The 14 Hot Papers to which he contributed include a 2010 report from the 1000 Genomes Project (“A map of human genome variation from population-scale sequencing,” Nature, 467(7319): 1061-73, 2010), which currently ranks among biology’s most-cited papers. Other reports coauthored by Lander center on genomic analysis of multiple myeloma and on genome sequences for the domestic horse and the extinct human relative, Neanderthal.  

Cardiology, Cancer, Genomics

The next name on the list, Salim Yusuf of McMaster University, has also recurred in previous roundups, having last appeared in the 2009 edition. Yusuf’s 13 recent Hot Papers examine treatments for atrial fibrillation and other coronary disorders. One of these studies, comparing dabigatran with warfarin, has recently ranked among Science Watch’s listings of medicine’s Top Ten most cited (S.J. Connolly, et al., New Engl. J. Med., 361[12]: 1139-51, 2009). Another, a 2011 report on the use of apixaban in patients with atrial fibrillation, wound up at #7 on the attached list of 2011’s most-cited papers.

Also scoring with 13 Hot Papers is Michael R. Stratton of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. (Note: the sequence of names on each tier in the table is determined by average citations per Hot Paper.) The reports to which Stratton contributed concern various aspects of cancer genomics, from a general catalogue of somatic mutations to genomic studies of cancers afflicting the lung, breast, and pancreas. Among his coauthors on most of these reports are his Sanger Institute colleagues Andy Futreal and Peter J. Campbell. Another Sanger author, Panos Deloukas, earns inclusion on the list with 10 Hot Papers on genomic investigations of Alzheimer’s, diabetes, Parkinson’s, and other diseases.

With 11 Hot Papers, Douglas G. Altman, of the Centre for Statistics in Medicine at the University of Oxford, makes a return appearance from last year’s roundup. He contributed to assorted guidelines for preventing bias and other problems in the reporting of medical trials—notably, refinements to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) statement.

Epidemiologist Albert Hofman of Erasmus University and the Harvard School of Public Health joins the list by virtue of 11 Hot Papers. These include genome-wide association studies on hypertension, Alzheimer’s, and vitamin D deficiency, along with studies on genetic variation in Parkinson’s and diabetes.

Eric S. Lander of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, who also topped last year’s roundup, has become a virtual fixture on this annual roster, with this year marking his eighth appearance.

Eleven Hot Papers on plant biology bring Kazuo Shinozaki to the list. Shinozaki, Director of the RIKEN Plant Science Center in Yokohama, Japan, contributed to a 2010 report on the genome sequence of the palaeopolyploid soybean (J. Schmutz, et al., Nature, 463(7278): 178-83, 2010); this paper, now cited more than 200 times, currently ranks among the most cited in the main field of biology. Other hot reports coauthored by Shinozaki examine stress response and other regulatory functions in Arabidopsis and other plants.  

With 10 Hot Papers apiece, two authors who were featured last year make a return. Celebrated genomist Francis S. Collins of the National Institutes of Health contributed to general reports on genome variation (including the 1000 Genome Projects report noted above), along with examinations of genomic loci associated with such traits as blood lipids, body mass index, and height. Another 1000 Genomes contributor, Richard K. Wilson of Washingon University in St. Louis, weighs in with reports on the genomic underpinnings of glioblastoma, leukemia, and ovarian cancer, among other topics.

The 10 Hot Papers of University of Michigan biostatistician Goncalo Abecasis, last seen on this list in 2010, also include the 1000 Genomes Project blockbuster, along with examinations of type 2 diabetes risk, and reports on software tools for sequencing and visualizing genomic data.

Solid Materials

Materials research accounts for the balance of the featured authors. Yongye Liang, now at Stanford University, coauthored 10 reports on polymer solar cells, including a Nature Photonics report now cited more than 500 times (H.Y. Chen, et al., 3[11]: 649-53, 2009.). Frederik C. Krebs of the Technical University of Denmark also registered with 10 reports on polymer solar cells—chiefly on their fabrication, but also touching on matters related to practicality, market analysis, and intellectual property. And Hui-Ming Cheng of the Shenyang National Laboratory for Materials Science, China, contributed to reports ranging from general aspects of energy storage to titanium dioxide nanomaterials to the use of graphene in lithium oxide batteries.

This annual listing of authors is confined to those who contributed to at least 10 Hot Papers during 2011. It must be noted, however, that practical considerations prevented the inclusion of all the authors who were, strictly speaking, eligible. Specifically, a few large, multinational collaborations in particle physics produced several papers that proved to be hot in 2011.

Two groups in particular, the ATLAS experiment and the Compact Muon Solenoid experiment—both representing detectors at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider facility on the French-Swiss border—distinguished themselves with several Hot Papers detailing the hunt for the Higgs boson and other elusive particles. Another experiment, the D0 Collaboration at Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois, also produced Hot Papers describing the search for “CP violation” and other aspects of the subatomic world. Our analysis showed that, as is characteristic of the highly collaborative enterprise of high-energy physics, dozens of scientists were among the many hundreds of authors on a set of 10 Hot Papers representing both the ATLAS experiment and the D0 Collaboration. Unfortunately, space restrictions prevent listing them all individually. But the work’s citation impact certainly merits recognition.

The Year’s Hottest Papers

The table of papers presents those reports published during calendar 2011 that were most cited by year’s end (with the citations tallied as of late December). As is noted above, the list omits reviews and other summary reports in favor of “discovery accounts.” It also carries the customary caveat regarding this annual collection, in that papers published earlier in the year have an obvious time advantage in accruing citations. Nevertheless, the list does provide a snapshot of those papers and topics that hit the ground with notable speed.

Achieving particular distinction atop the list are three reports from the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), launched in 2001. Although the spacecraft itself has now gone silent at the end of its mission, rafts of scientists are poring over the accumulated data, including the seven-year observations released last year. These reports detail some of the mission’s signal discoveries, such as evidence of pre-stellar helium and other clues to the past and present universe. Paper #1 in the table, delivering the “cosmological interpretations” of the WMAP seven-year data, had already been cited more than 500 times before the end of its first year of publication.  

Induced pluripotent stem cells also recur among the year’s most-cited papers, notably in a trio from the same a single issue of Nature (#4, #5, #9). The papers examine genetic abnormalities that arise during the reprogramming of these cells—findings that raise questions about the safety of their use.

The journal Nature, in fact, accounted for the highest number of papers on the list: 10 of the 38. The New England Journal of Medicine was next with eight of the entries, while Science recorded three.

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