Highly Cited Researchers 2019: Strong evidence of Mainland China’s rise to the highest levels of research

See the Highly Cited Researchers 2019 list


The Web of Science Group releases its annual list of Highly Cited Researchers.

Highly Cited Researchers are among those who have demonstrated significant and broad influence reflected in their publication of multiple papers, highly cited by their peers over the course of the last decade. These highly cited papers rank in the top 1% by citations for a chosen field or fields and year in Web of Science. Of the world’s population of scientists and social scientists, the Web of Science Group’s Highly Cited Researchers are one in 1,000.

The Web of Science Group recognizes 6,216 scientists and social scientists for demonstrating significant influence among their peers through publication of multiple papers that rank in the top 1% by citations for field and year. The period surveyed in the analysis is 2008-2018.

Since UNESCO estimated the world’s population of researchers at some 7.8 million in 2015, our list calls out individuals who are far fewer than one in 1,000 with respect to contemporary citation impact.

Recognition and support of this scientific elite is an important activity for a nation or an institution in planning investments to accelerate advancement. Our Highly Cited Researchers list contributes to the identification of that small fraction of the researcher population that contributes disproportionately to extending the frontiers of knowledge and gaining for society innovations that make the world healthier, richer, more sustainable and more secure.

Mainland China second only to United States in top research talent

By comparing this year’s list to previous instalments, we note the continuing rise of Mainland China in the landscape of scientific and scholarly research. And it should be noted that our data focuses not on output but on influence at the highest level.

This year Mainland China has surpassed the United Kingdom to claim second place in number of Highly cited Researchers. In 2018, the United Kingdom was home to 546 and Mainland China to 428. The current data show 636 Highly Cited Researchers for Mainland China and 516 for the United Kingdom. Since 2014, when the Web of Science Group introduced the current methodology for selecting Highly Cited Researchers (by number of highly cited papers and not by total citations), Mainland China has increased its share some three-fold. This is evidence that an emphasis on quality of research and not merely quantity, introduced by the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology about a decade ago, is paying off.

Among institutions with the greatest number of Highly Cited Researchers, the Chinese Academy of Sciences (including all its constituent research institutes) claims 101. Only the US National Institutes of Health (including all its Institutes), Harvard University, and Stanford University have more Highly Cited Researchers in residence: 145, 203, and 103, respectively. Among universities, Mainland China claims four that rank in the top 50 by number of Highly Cited Researchers: Tsinghua University, University of Electronic Science & Technology of China, University of Science and Technology of China and Zhejiang University.

Strong geographic concentration, Nobel prizes define the world’s research elite

The United States remains first by far in number of Highly Cited Researchers with 2,737, or 44%. Mainland China, at second, has 10.2% of the group, followed by the United Kingdom (8.3%), Germany (5.3%), Australia (4.4%). These five nations account for 72.2% of the world’s Highly Cited Researchers, a remarkable concentration of top talent.

Three of this year’s newly minted Nobel laureates are also 2019 Highly Cited Researchers: Gregg L. Semenza (Physiology or Medicine), John B. Goodenough (Chemistry) and Esther Duflo (Economics). In all our list includes 23 Nobel laureates. Also included in this year’s list are 57 Citation Laureates; individuals recognized by the Web of Science Group, through citation analysis, as ‘of Nobel class’ and potential Nobel Prize recipients.

As always, we welcome comments and suggestions for improved identification of influential researchers. This is the second year we included Highly Cited Researchers recognized for cross-field impact. These are scientists and social scientists who achieve the same level of influence as those chosen in a specific field through their publication of highly cited papers across several fields. We introduced identification of those with multidisciplinary citation impact based on suggestions from the research community.

To see the full list of Highly Cited Researchers 2019 and read more about the selection methodology and other details, please visit: