Today’s Hottest Researchers

Web of Science statistics point to authors whose recent papers have consistently scored high citations, indicating significance and usefulness in active fields.

In the latest iteration of an annual compilation that now goes back nearly a quarter-century, Web of Science statistics from Clarivate Analytics have produced a listing of today’s hottest scientists. That is, the researchers whose recent reports, published within the last two years, have officially registered as Hot Papers in Web of Science, attracting a markedly high number of citations compared to reports published at the same time in the same journals.

The current list features 19 researchers who, since 2014, have each published at least a dozen Hot Papers, according to citations tallied during 2016. Via comparison against baseline citation statistics in 21 main fields of science, Hot Papers are identified every two months in Essential Science Indicators, a performance-measurement tool within Web of Science. For the present listing, any report that met the Hot Paper threshold for at least one of the bimonthly counts between January and September 2016 contributed to the featured authors’ individual tallies.

As with previous presentations, this latest collection bears one caveat:  Nowadays, large, international research collaborations – in high-energy physics, for example, or clinical medicine – produce highly cited papers that may list upwards of 3,000 authors. Due to the impracticality of presenting hundreds of author names in this survey, papers with 500 or more author were excluded from consideration.


Solar Cells, Genomics Still Ascendant

The previous installment of this roundup appeared as a sub-section in another Web of Science-based listing of authors, “The World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds,” based on the Highly Cited Researchers website.

Highly Cited Researchers are identified according to their tallies of Highly Cited Papers, another special Web of Science designation, covering papers published in the last decade. By contrast, the Hottest Researchers, as noted above, are evaluated according to papers published within the last two years. Still, this year finds considerable overlap between the listings, as all but two authors in the latest batch of hottest authors also rank among the current cohort of Highly Cited Researchers.

In the previous Hottest Researchers listing, two dominant themes emerged: cancer genomics, and solar cells based on the mineral perovskite. In the new list, both areas remain prominent and are embodied by several of the same researchers, with a slight shift at the top. This time, Henry J. Snaith of Oxford captures the top rung with 26 Hot Papers on solar cells. He replaces the top finisher from last time, Stacey B. Gabriel of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, who reached the top of the previous list thanks to 25 genomics papers.

Gabriel, nevertheless, is back on the current list, placed close to two other returnees based at the Broad Institute, both of them also credited among the many coauthors on hot reports from The Cancer Genome Atlas project (TCGA). One of these TCGA coauthors, Eric S. Lander, now makes his 12th appearance in this annual listing of hottest authors – this time, thanks to 17 reports.  The Broad’s Gad Getz, meanwhile, like Gabriel, contributed to 15 Hot Papers that report TCGA’s molecular profiles of cancers of the lung, bladder, prostate and other organs. (Note: Throughout the list, the rank order of names is determined first by number of Hot Papers, then by the average number of citations per Hot Paper.)

Otherwise, as noted above, the upper reaches of the list are occupied by materials scientists: Joining the chart-topping Henry Snaith are two of his former Oxford colleagues: Sam Stranks, now at Cambridge, who coauthored 16 of the Hot Papers on perovskite solar cells; and Giles E. Eperon, who contributed to 13 papers and subsequently moved to the University of Washington.

Michael Grätzel of the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland, another high finisher in the previous listing, jumps to the #2 spot in the current ranking, thanks to 21 papers on perovskite and its use in solar cells. His EPFL colleague and frequent coauthor, Mohammed K. Nazeeruddin, contributed to 14 of the papers and, like Grätzel, earns a return trip to the list.


Biomedicine, Chemistry

Feng Zhang of MIT completes the roster of return visitors from the previous roundup, by virtue of 15 Hot Papers incorporating the CRISPR/Cas9 method for genome editing that he helped to pioneer. One of these papers, from 2016, reports on in vivo genome editing in a mouse model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy and the observed improvement in muscle function. This is just one example of the potentially transformative applications being explored for the method.

Meanwhile, other fronts in the war on cancer are reflected in the 14 Hot Papers by Ahmedin Jemal of the American Cancer Society. These report on the incidence of various forms of the disease in the US and other selected nations, as well as globally.

Trials of anticancer agents, including nivolumab in combination with ipilimumab in previously untreated melanoma, constitute the 14 Hot Papers on which Caroline Robert of the Institut Gustave Roussy, Villejuif, France, is among the contributors.

Ipilimubab and other immune checkpoint inhibitors also figure in the separate groupings of 12 Hot Papers that bring Antoni Ribas of UCLA and Jedd D. Wolchok of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center to the list.

Kuo-Chen Chou, founder and director of the Gordon Life Sciences Institute,  Boston, registers with 14 papers on genomics – specifically, on the use of pseudo nucleic composition, an alternative to classical sequencing methods for analyzing the function and processes of unknown DNA/RNA sequences.

A dozen Hot Papers on drug therapy for hepatitis C earn a spot on the list for John G. McHutchison of Gilead Sciences in California. The studies primarily evaluate sofosbuvir, which blocks a key hepatitis C protein.

Cardiovascular disease is the primary concentration of the 12 Hot Papers recorded by Børge G. Nordestgaard of the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, although the theme is not exclusive: In addition to reports on hypercholesterolemia and other factors in vascular disease, two of his Hot Papers examine susceptibility to prostate cancer.

Thanks to a dozen Hot Papers each, two chemists find their way to the list. The work of Mietek Jaroniec of Kent State University, Ohio, includes reports on various properties of carbon spheres and other nanoporous materials. Meanwhile, Lutz Ackermann of the University of Göttingen, Germany, concentrates on processes related to organic synthesis.

One more name rounds out the “12 papers” group of authors: Shen Yin of the Harbin Institute of Technology, China. Yin specializes in the application of data-based techniques to industrial processes. These applications include process monitoring, performance optimization and fault detection in wind turbines, among other systems.


View the full list:

Hottest Researchers 2016