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Research trends is an online magazine providing objective insights into scientific trends based on bibliometrics analyses.

Managing our environment on three fronts

Biodiversity, oceanography and waste management all influence our environment. Research Trends asks Professors Michel Loreau and Edward Durbin, and Dr Hans van der Sloot for their opinions on the challenges and opportunities of managing our environment from three perspectives.

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The environment in which we live is impacted by everything that we put into and take out of it. And of course we do not exist in it alone; the other species both on land and in our seas have an important role to play. Research Trends interviewed three experts in the fields of biodiversity, waste management and oceanography to find out their points of view on environmental management.

Click on one of the interviews below to find out more.

Biodiversity and ecosystems: Professor Michel Loreau

Prof. Michel Loreau is Canada Research Chair in Theoretical Ecology at McGill University in Montreal. He has published 128 papers that have been collectively cited 7,079 times. His h-index is 33 – which means that 33 of his papers have been cited 33 times or more. His most cited paper, “Ecology: Biodiversity and ecosystem functioning: Current knowledge and future challenges”, published in Science in 2001, has received more than 850 citations. Sixteen of his papers have been cited 100 times or more, and only 11 remain uncited to date.

Recycling waste: Dr Hans van der Sloot

Dr Hans van der Sloot is Associate Editor of Waste Management. He recently retired from the Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands and now works as a private consultant. He has published 89 papers that have been collectively cited 1,131 times; his h-index is 16 – which means that 16 of his papers have been cited 16 times or more. His most cited paper, “An integrated framework for evaluating leaching in waste management and utilization of secondary materials”, published in Environmental Engineering Science in 2002, has received more than 90 citations. Six of his papers have been cited 50 times or more, and only two remain uncited to date.

Oceanic issues: Professor Edward Durbin

Edward Durbin is Professor of Oceanography working with Global Ocean Ecosystem Dynamics (GLOBEC). He has published 63 papers that have been collectively cited 1,357 times; his h-index is 17 – which means that 17 of his papers have been cited 17 times or more. His most cited paper, “Growth and development rates of the copepod Calanus finmarchicus reared in the laboratory”, published in Marine Ecology Progress Series in 2001, has received more than 134 citations. Seven of his papers have been cited 50 times or more, and only 21 remain uncited to date.

Source for bibliometric data: Scopus

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The environment in which we live is impacted by everything that we put into and take out of it. And of course we do not exist in it alone; the other species both on land and in our seas have an important role to play. Research Trends interviewed three experts in the fields of biodiversity, waste management and oceanography to find out their points of view on environmental management.

Click on one of the interviews below to find out more.

Biodiversity and ecosystems: Professor Michel Loreau

Prof. Michel Loreau is Canada Research Chair in Theoretical Ecology at McGill University in Montreal. He has published 128 papers that have been collectively cited 7,079 times. His h-index is 33 – which means that 33 of his papers have been cited 33 times or more. His most cited paper, “Ecology: Biodiversity and ecosystem functioning: Current knowledge and future challenges”, published in Science in 2001, has received more than 850 citations. Sixteen of his papers have been cited 100 times or more, and only 11 remain uncited to date.

Recycling waste: Dr Hans van der Sloot

Dr Hans van der Sloot is Associate Editor of Waste Management. He recently retired from the Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands and now works as a private consultant. He has published 89 papers that have been collectively cited 1,131 times; his h-index is 16 – which means that 16 of his papers have been cited 16 times or more. His most cited paper, “An integrated framework for evaluating leaching in waste management and utilization of secondary materials”, published in Environmental Engineering Science in 2002, has received more than 90 citations. Six of his papers have been cited 50 times or more, and only two remain uncited to date.

Oceanic issues: Professor Edward Durbin

Edward Durbin is Professor of Oceanography working with Global Ocean Ecosystem Dynamics (GLOBEC). He has published 63 papers that have been collectively cited 1,357 times; his h-index is 17 – which means that 17 of his papers have been cited 17 times or more. His most cited paper, “Growth and development rates of the copepod Calanus finmarchicus reared in the laboratory”, published in Marine Ecology Progress Series in 2001, has received more than 134 citations. Seven of his papers have been cited 50 times or more, and only 21 remain uncited to date.

Source for bibliometric data: Scopus

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Mapping 20 years of Global Ocean Ecosystem Research

Global Ocean Ecosystem Dynamics (GLOBEC) is a research program initiated in 1990. Its aim is: “To advance our understanding of the structure and functioning of the global ocean ecosystem, its major subsystems, and its response to physical forcing so that a capability can be developed to forecast the responses of the marine ecosystem to global […]

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Global Ocean Ecosystem Dynamics (GLOBEC) is a research program initiated in 1990. Its aim is: “To advance our understanding of the structure and functioning of the global ocean ecosystem, its major subsystems, and its response to physical forcing so that a capability can be developed to forecast the responses of the marine ecosystem to global change.” For GLOBEC this means focusing on shorter-term effects, such as over-fishing and the changing ways we use the seas, in addition to their overall efforts to investigate global change in the broadest sense.

To celebrate GLOBEC’s 20 years of research, a bibliometric study has been conducted to identify the most important topics among GLOBEC’s publications, as well as the most productive and highly cited authors and institutes. The best 35 articles of GLOBEC’s 2,900 peer-reviewed papers over the past two decades have been collected together in a Compendium to be published as a standalone publication, under the journal Progress in Oceanography banner.

What determined the “best”?

First, we constructed a keyword co-occurrence map (see Figure 1) based on the co-occurrences of terms in the titles and abstracts of 2,134 of GLOBEC’s publications. This map shows relations among 800 keywords. We can then see how often a term occurred by assessing the size of the font and the bubble. The closer keywords are to each other indicates how frequently they occurred together. This means we can see the most common areas of research, and how they relate to each other.

Maps like these can be visualized at an overall level (as shown in Figure 1), but it is also possible to zoom in on keywords and topics to see more detail.

Figure 1 – Co-occurrence key word map for GLOBEC publications (screenshot from the original interactive map).

Figure 1 – Co-occurrence key word map for GLOBEC publications (screenshot from the original interactive map). Credit: With special thanks to CWTS.

Analyzing the map

This keyword co-occurrence map helps us characterize the structure and functioning of oceanic ecosystems.

In the top right section, the “primary production” compartment is represented in yellow. This includes phytoplankton, bloom, carbon and algae, together with nutrients (nitrate, silicate) and organic matter fluxes. This group of keywords can be characterized as “Biochemical cycles and primary production”. As these phenomena are governed by the physical environment, they naturally neighbor the bottom right section in red, which represents physical conditions, such as current, wind and gyre, and characterized as “Ocean winds and currents”.

Moving anticlockwise to the top left corner of the map, we see the “secondary producers” identified in violet. In this area, GLOBEC concentrates on copepods and their lifecycle. Calanus finmarchicus, the most abundant species in the North Sea and the principal food source for herring, is a preeminent subject. This is obvious considering that GLOBEC’s key oceanographic sampling efforts were conducted in the North Atlantic, where Calanus finmarchicus is also abundant. This section can be classified as “Zooplankton growth and production”.

The transition to the lifecycle of secondary producers, characterized as “Larval fish growth and survival”, is depicted in mauve. This cloud merges into the green cloud representing “Ecosystem and fisheries management”.

Finally, the circle connects back to climate change (warming, decadal scale), thus closing the circle at physical environment studies into the red section, “Ocean winds and currents”.

Because of GLOBEC’s “whole ecosystem” approach and special emphasis on economically valuable fish species, certain keywords are found more towards the centre of the map. For instance, mesozooplankton (krill) and other planktonic components like euphasids are located more to the center, where community-level studies come together. Diversity studies, as well as some of the most widely sampled environments, also group towards the center of the map, indicating their value to all the areas of study.

Causing a splash

After identifying GLOBEC’s five key subjects using the keyword co-occurrence map, we analyzed citation patterns for each of these areas (see Figure 2).

Figure 2 – Citations per article (three-year rolling window) for each of the five subject areas identified in the co-concurrence map, as well as for GLOBEC as a whole. Time periods have been represented in four-year blocks, with both publications and citations to those publications occurring in the same time period.

Figure 2 – Citations per article (three-year rolling window) for each of the five subject areas identified in the co-concurrence map, as well as for GLOBEC as a whole. Time periods have been represented in four-year blocks, with both publications and citations to those publications occurring in the same time period. Source: Scopus.

From this analysis, we can see that articles on ecosystem and fisheries management are by far the most highly cited. However, there has been a marked decline in citations since the peak in 2004–2007. All other subjects show steady growth in citations except for zooplankton research, which has remained relatively stable.

Combining output and citations between 2006 and 2009 shows us that ecosystems and fisheries is GLOBEC’s most prolific and its most cited area of research (see Figure 3). This Figure also indicates that while zooplankton is definitely a prolific research field, it receives less citation attention than GLOBEC’s other areas of expertise.

Figure 3. Comparing output with citations, ecosystems and fisheries management is clearly GLOBEC’s most prolific and most cited subject area.

Figure 3. Comparing output with citations, ecosystems and fisheries management is clearly GLOBEC’s most prolific and most cited subject area.

A picture of success

These analyses confirm that GLOBEC has met its original mandate “to advance our understanding of the structure and functioning of the global ocean ecosystem, its major subsystems and its response to physical forcing.” The map shows that it has covered all its stated areas of research and citation analyses confirmed that it has produced numerous and important studies that inform our “capability […] to forecast the responses of the marine ecosystem to global change.” Such studies are invaluable in assessing ongoing research programs.

At the same time, bibliometric analysis can overturn assumptions. In the GLOBEC study, we discovered that certain keywords, such as “modeling” or “benthos”, were actually used less than we had expected.

Yet, perhaps the best outcome of such maps is that they help us clearly visualize an ambitious range of topics covered in a remarkable research program spanning 20 years.

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Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)

Global Ocean Ecosystem Dynamics (GLOBEC) is a research program initiated in 1990. Its aim is: “To advance our understanding of the structure and functioning of the global ocean ecosystem, its major subsystems, and its response to physical forcing so that a capability can be developed to forecast the responses of the marine ecosystem to global change.” For GLOBEC this means focusing on shorter-term effects, such as over-fishing and the changing ways we use the seas, in addition to their overall efforts to investigate global change in the broadest sense.

To celebrate GLOBEC’s 20 years of research, a bibliometric study has been conducted to identify the most important topics among GLOBEC’s publications, as well as the most productive and highly cited authors and institutes. The best 35 articles of GLOBEC’s 2,900 peer-reviewed papers over the past two decades have been collected together in a Compendium to be published as a standalone publication, under the journal Progress in Oceanography banner.

What determined the “best”?

First, we constructed a keyword co-occurrence map (see Figure 1) based on the co-occurrences of terms in the titles and abstracts of 2,134 of GLOBEC’s publications. This map shows relations among 800 keywords. We can then see how often a term occurred by assessing the size of the font and the bubble. The closer keywords are to each other indicates how frequently they occurred together. This means we can see the most common areas of research, and how they relate to each other.

Maps like these can be visualized at an overall level (as shown in Figure 1), but it is also possible to zoom in on keywords and topics to see more detail.

Figure 1 – Co-occurrence key word map for GLOBEC publications (screenshot from the original interactive map).

Figure 1 – Co-occurrence key word map for GLOBEC publications (screenshot from the original interactive map). Credit: With special thanks to CWTS.

Analyzing the map

This keyword co-occurrence map helps us characterize the structure and functioning of oceanic ecosystems.

In the top right section, the “primary production” compartment is represented in yellow. This includes phytoplankton, bloom, carbon and algae, together with nutrients (nitrate, silicate) and organic matter fluxes. This group of keywords can be characterized as “Biochemical cycles and primary production”. As these phenomena are governed by the physical environment, they naturally neighbor the bottom right section in red, which represents physical conditions, such as current, wind and gyre, and characterized as “Ocean winds and currents”.

Moving anticlockwise to the top left corner of the map, we see the “secondary producers” identified in violet. In this area, GLOBEC concentrates on copepods and their lifecycle. Calanus finmarchicus, the most abundant species in the North Sea and the principal food source for herring, is a preeminent subject. This is obvious considering that GLOBEC’s key oceanographic sampling efforts were conducted in the North Atlantic, where Calanus finmarchicus is also abundant. This section can be classified as “Zooplankton growth and production”.

The transition to the lifecycle of secondary producers, characterized as “Larval fish growth and survival”, is depicted in mauve. This cloud merges into the green cloud representing “Ecosystem and fisheries management”.

Finally, the circle connects back to climate change (warming, decadal scale), thus closing the circle at physical environment studies into the red section, “Ocean winds and currents”.

Because of GLOBEC’s “whole ecosystem” approach and special emphasis on economically valuable fish species, certain keywords are found more towards the centre of the map. For instance, mesozooplankton (krill) and other planktonic components like euphasids are located more to the center, where community-level studies come together. Diversity studies, as well as some of the most widely sampled environments, also group towards the center of the map, indicating their value to all the areas of study.

Causing a splash

After identifying GLOBEC’s five key subjects using the keyword co-occurrence map, we analyzed citation patterns for each of these areas (see Figure 2).

Figure 2 – Citations per article (three-year rolling window) for each of the five subject areas identified in the co-concurrence map, as well as for GLOBEC as a whole. Time periods have been represented in four-year blocks, with both publications and citations to those publications occurring in the same time period.

Figure 2 – Citations per article (three-year rolling window) for each of the five subject areas identified in the co-concurrence map, as well as for GLOBEC as a whole. Time periods have been represented in four-year blocks, with both publications and citations to those publications occurring in the same time period. Source: Scopus.

From this analysis, we can see that articles on ecosystem and fisheries management are by far the most highly cited. However, there has been a marked decline in citations since the peak in 2004–2007. All other subjects show steady growth in citations except for zooplankton research, which has remained relatively stable.

Combining output and citations between 2006 and 2009 shows us that ecosystems and fisheries is GLOBEC’s most prolific and its most cited area of research (see Figure 3). This Figure also indicates that while zooplankton is definitely a prolific research field, it receives less citation attention than GLOBEC’s other areas of expertise.

Figure 3. Comparing output with citations, ecosystems and fisheries management is clearly GLOBEC’s most prolific and most cited subject area.

Figure 3. Comparing output with citations, ecosystems and fisheries management is clearly GLOBEC’s most prolific and most cited subject area.

A picture of success

These analyses confirm that GLOBEC has met its original mandate “to advance our understanding of the structure and functioning of the global ocean ecosystem, its major subsystems and its response to physical forcing.” The map shows that it has covered all its stated areas of research and citation analyses confirmed that it has produced numerous and important studies that inform our “capability […] to forecast the responses of the marine ecosystem to global change.” Such studies are invaluable in assessing ongoing research programs.

At the same time, bibliometric analysis can overturn assumptions. In the GLOBEC study, we discovered that certain keywords, such as “modeling” or “benthos”, were actually used less than we had expected.

Yet, perhaps the best outcome of such maps is that they help us clearly visualize an ambitious range of topics covered in a remarkable research program spanning 20 years.

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Research and practice in waste management

Are those countries with excellent records in waste management research also the best practitioners of innovative waste management strategies? Research Trends shows how European countries compare on both research and application.

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What happens to the things we throw away? Where does our household garbage go? And what about pharmaceutical waste or old computers? Figure 1 shows the hierarchy of our available options for waste disposal, from outright prevention to disposal in a landfill.

Figure 1 – The waste disposal hierarchy.

Figure 1 – The waste disposal hierarchy.

Waste is becoming an increasingly urgent problem, and many countries have policies in place to manage their waste. For instance, the European Union has had a Directive regulating landfill use since 2002. This is helping support research into waste management solutions. But does a highly performing research sector occur more frequently in the regions where waste management is under control or where it is still a major challenge?

Research vs. reality

In 2006 Eurostat investigated how each European country was distributing its waste across the options in the hierarchy. The differences are notable (see Figure 2). Germany and the Netherlands, for instance, recycle over 68 and 64 percent, respectively, of urban waste and only send one and two percent, respectively, to landfills. At the other end of the spectrum are countries such as Poland and Lithuania, both of which send 91 percent of their waste to landfill.

Figure 2 – Waste disposal techniques per European country in 2006.

Figure 2 – Waste disposal techniques per European country in 2006. Source: Eurostat.

When we compare this to research output in “waste management and disposal”, we see countries like the UK, Spain, Poland and Italy are publishing a lot of papers and rely heavily on landfill. However, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden also make the top 20, and they only use between one and five percent landfill. Therefore, there does not seem to be any correlation between research output and landfill use.

If we look at citations per article (see Table 2), France and Greece are in the top 20, and they also have high percentages of landfill (35 and 87 percent, respectively). On the other hand, Belgium also appears in the top 20, but it only uses five percent landfill.

This indicates that actual waste disposal techniques do not seem to be driven by the research done in the same country. Basically, a country might be producing excellent research on waste management, but this does not necessarily mean they are actually putting that research into practice.

Policy matters

Professor Ernst Worrell, from the Department of Innovation and Environmental Sciences at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, is not surprised that there does not seem to be a link between a country’s most used waste disposal technique and its research: “Though research into waste management options and technologies is, for a large part, driven by policy, it is not surprising that there is not a direct link between the type of publications and expected (or assumed) policy options in a given country. Note that other factors (e.g. presence of technology suppliers) may also drive the research portfolio in a country.

“After the introduction of new waste management systems in countries like Germany and the Netherlands in the 1990s, it seems that policymakers assumed this issue was under control. The need for research declined, even though no proper monitoring on a scientific basis has been done in these countries.

However, Prof. Worrell cautions against complacency, as countries that still have waste mountains to tackle do seem to be researching this issue intensely: “The UK has produced a large volume of publications on waste management in the past 10 years. It had to address this issue because it was lagging behind other countries in Europe. In their wisdom, this development of new waste management practices has been accompanied by a research program that has delivered a wealth of research.”

So, according to Prof. Worrell, which are the countries to watch in the near future? “In my opinion, some of the Scandinavian countries (each with their own emphasis) are leading the way in finding sustainable ways to manage waste, with often a good mixed portfolio of policy instruments that include prevention, recycling, and final waste management options. In these countries you also see some strong research groups with a continuous output, as policymakers have remained interested in assessing the impacts and improving policies.

“My hope is that policymakers, not only in these selected countries, will continue to see the need to assess the effectiveness of policy and technology options to further optimize the use of materials and minimize waste generation. The future supply, use and disposal of materials will become an increasingly important challenge for our society, and hence in need of technology and policy development.”

Rank Country Percentage Cites per article
1 United States 13.13% 1.41
2 India 3.90% 3.54
3 United Kingdom 3.57% 1.04
4 China 3.21% 1.96
5 Canada 2.81% 1.53
6 Brazil 2.69% 1.12
7 Japan 2.27% 1.84
8 Spain 1.91% 1.91
9 Poland 1.81% 0.49
10 Taiwan 1.75% 1.59
11 Italy 1.59% 1.08
12 Germany 1.56% 1.60
13 Australia 1.52% 1.23
14 Korea, Republic of 1.49% 1.92
15 Sweden 1.47% 1.23
16 Netherlands 1.27% 1.45
17 Turkey 1.21% 2.52
18 France 1.21% 2.32
19 Mexico 0.77% 1.43
20 Denmark 0.74% 1.57

Table 1 – Top 20 most productive countries in research on waste management and disposal in 2006 and 2007.
Source: Scopus.

Rank Country Cites per article
1 India 3.54
2 Colombia 3.50
3 Malaysia 2.56
4 Nigeria 2.53
5 Turkey 2.52
6 Bangladesh 2.50
7 Thailand 2.36
8 France 2.32
9 Hong Kong 2.23
10 Uruguay 2.14
11 Jordan 2.07
12 Greece 2.07
13 Cuba 2.00
14 Belgium 1.98
15 China 1.96
16 Portugal 1.95
17 Korea, Republic of 1.92
18 Spain 1.91
19 Singapore 1.85
20 Japan 1.84

Table 2 – Highest cites in 2008 per article from 2006 and 2007, per country, for countries with more than five articles on “waste management and disposal” in 2006 and 2007.
Source: Scopus.

Further reading

Milton, J. and Brahic, C. (2010) “Track that trash”, New Scientist, Vol. 206, Issue 2756, pp. 44–45.

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What happens to the things we throw away? Where does our household garbage go? And what about pharmaceutical waste or old computers? Figure 1 shows the hierarchy of our available options for waste disposal, from outright prevention to disposal in a landfill.

Figure 1 – The waste disposal hierarchy.

Figure 1 – The waste disposal hierarchy.

Waste is becoming an increasingly urgent problem, and many countries have policies in place to manage their waste. For instance, the European Union has had a Directive regulating landfill use since 2002. This is helping support research into waste management solutions. But does a highly performing research sector occur more frequently in the regions where waste management is under control or where it is still a major challenge?

Research vs. reality

In 2006 Eurostat investigated how each European country was distributing its waste across the options in the hierarchy. The differences are notable (see Figure 2). Germany and the Netherlands, for instance, recycle over 68 and 64 percent, respectively, of urban waste and only send one and two percent, respectively, to landfills. At the other end of the spectrum are countries such as Poland and Lithuania, both of which send 91 percent of their waste to landfill.

Figure 2 – Waste disposal techniques per European country in 2006.

Figure 2 – Waste disposal techniques per European country in 2006. Source: Eurostat.

When we compare this to research output in “waste management and disposal”, we see countries like the UK, Spain, Poland and Italy are publishing a lot of papers and rely heavily on landfill. However, Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden also make the top 20, and they only use between one and five percent landfill. Therefore, there does not seem to be any correlation between research output and landfill use.

If we look at citations per article (see Table 2), France and Greece are in the top 20, and they also have high percentages of landfill (35 and 87 percent, respectively). On the other hand, Belgium also appears in the top 20, but it only uses five percent landfill.

This indicates that actual waste disposal techniques do not seem to be driven by the research done in the same country. Basically, a country might be producing excellent research on waste management, but this does not necessarily mean they are actually putting that research into practice.

Policy matters

Professor Ernst Worrell, from the Department of Innovation and Environmental Sciences at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, is not surprised that there does not seem to be a link between a country’s most used waste disposal technique and its research: “Though research into waste management options and technologies is, for a large part, driven by policy, it is not surprising that there is not a direct link between the type of publications and expected (or assumed) policy options in a given country. Note that other factors (e.g. presence of technology suppliers) may also drive the research portfolio in a country.

“After the introduction of new waste management systems in countries like Germany and the Netherlands in the 1990s, it seems that policymakers assumed this issue was under control. The need for research declined, even though no proper monitoring on a scientific basis has been done in these countries.

However, Prof. Worrell cautions against complacency, as countries that still have waste mountains to tackle do seem to be researching this issue intensely: “The UK has produced a large volume of publications on waste management in the past 10 years. It had to address this issue because it was lagging behind other countries in Europe. In their wisdom, this development of new waste management practices has been accompanied by a research program that has delivered a wealth of research.”

So, according to Prof. Worrell, which are the countries to watch in the near future? “In my opinion, some of the Scandinavian countries (each with their own emphasis) are leading the way in finding sustainable ways to manage waste, with often a good mixed portfolio of policy instruments that include prevention, recycling, and final waste management options. In these countries you also see some strong research groups with a continuous output, as policymakers have remained interested in assessing the impacts and improving policies.

“My hope is that policymakers, not only in these selected countries, will continue to see the need to assess the effectiveness of policy and technology options to further optimize the use of materials and minimize waste generation. The future supply, use and disposal of materials will become an increasingly important challenge for our society, and hence in need of technology and policy development.”

Rank Country Percentage Cites per article
1 United States 13.13% 1.41
2 India 3.90% 3.54
3 United Kingdom 3.57% 1.04
4 China 3.21% 1.96
5 Canada 2.81% 1.53
6 Brazil 2.69% 1.12
7 Japan 2.27% 1.84
8 Spain 1.91% 1.91
9 Poland 1.81% 0.49
10 Taiwan 1.75% 1.59
11 Italy 1.59% 1.08
12 Germany 1.56% 1.60
13 Australia 1.52% 1.23
14 Korea, Republic of 1.49% 1.92
15 Sweden 1.47% 1.23
16 Netherlands 1.27% 1.45
17 Turkey 1.21% 2.52
18 France 1.21% 2.32
19 Mexico 0.77% 1.43
20 Denmark 0.74% 1.57

Table 1 – Top 20 most productive countries in research on waste management and disposal in 2006 and 2007.
Source: Scopus.

Rank Country Cites per article
1 India 3.54
2 Colombia 3.50
3 Malaysia 2.56
4 Nigeria 2.53
5 Turkey 2.52
6 Bangladesh 2.50
7 Thailand 2.36
8 France 2.32
9 Hong Kong 2.23
10 Uruguay 2.14
11 Jordan 2.07
12 Greece 2.07
13 Cuba 2.00
14 Belgium 1.98
15 China 1.96
16 Portugal 1.95
17 Korea, Republic of 1.92
18 Spain 1.91
19 Singapore 1.85
20 Japan 1.84

Table 2 – Highest cites in 2008 per article from 2006 and 2007, per country, for countries with more than five articles on “waste management and disposal” in 2006 and 2007.
Source: Scopus.

Further reading

Milton, J. and Brahic, C. (2010) “Track that trash”, New Scientist, Vol. 206, Issue 2756, pp. 44–45.

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“Omics”: genomics’ offspring shed light on biodiversity

In just 40 years, genomics has grown so rapidly that it has already spawned several sub-fields, which are also growing. Research Trends shows how this remarkable output has deepened our appreciation of biodiversity.

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The genomics explosion

1976: First virus genome sequenced

1987: “Genomics” coined to describe this growing research field

1995: First genome of a living organism published (of the bacterium Haemophilus influenzae)

2000: First draft of the human genome published, swiftly followed by numerous other genomes

The United Nations has declared 2010 the International Year of Biodiversity. To many, “biodiversity” simply means the number and variety of species. But biodiversity actually refers to all life on Earth, from molecules all the way up to entire ecological communities.

Over the past 30 years, our understanding of biodiversity has evolved, informing and being informed by parallel developments in the study of systems within cells; that is, of genomes, protein pathways, and metabolites. These fields of study are often collectively referred to as “omics”.

From genomics to omics

Fuelled by technical and methodological advances since the 1970s, notable landmarks have been achieved in the study of the genome, or the complete set of genetic information that makes up an organism, over the last 40 years (see box). This has been matched by a significant and steady increase in the number of publications in this field (see Figure 1).

Figure 1 – Publications in the research field of genomes (later known as genomics) soared between 1960 and 2009.

Figure 1 – Publications in the research field of genomes (later known as genomics) soared between 1960 and 2009. Source: keyword search in Scopus.

The growth in genomics research, and its maturation as a scientific field, has led to the creation of a number of offshoot "omics" research fields, each of which is also experiencing a steady rate of growth (see Figure 2).

Figure 2 – Output in several sub-fields of genomic research has seen marked growth in just five years.

Figure 2 – Output in several sub-fields of genomic research has seen marked growth in just five years. Source: keyword search in Scopus.

These new fields are information intensive and build on the large quantities of data produced by genomics research. The first fields to enter strong growth phases on the back of genomics research were proteomics and transcriptomics. Both these fields are concerned with the direct products made from the recipes encoded in the genome: proteins (via mRNA) and RNA transcribed directly from the genomic DNA code. Proteomics and transcriptomics were first featured in the peer-reviewed literature circa 1997 and 1998 respectively.

Many proteins and RNA molecules shepherd processes within a cell: making new molecules, breaking them down and facilitating interactions. Intense study into these phenomena within genomics, proteomics and transcriptomics has, in turn, spawned three more research fields, stimulated by the wealth of research on which they can build (see Figure 2). Metabolomics is concerned with small molecules, glycomics with carbohydrate molecules, and interactomics with the interactions between large molecules.

And still growing…

The next stage, of course, is to extend studies to beyond the boundaries of a cell. “Secretomics” is the study of gene products secreted from the cell. In the last five years, research output has begun to grow rapidly in this area, with 99 research papers published in 2009. And, if the growth trajectories of transcriptomics (1,615 documents in 2009), proteonomics (4,828 documents in 2009) and genomics (21,229 documents in 2009) are good indicators, there is a lot of potential ahead for these new fields, and by extension, for our understanding of biodiversity in general.

Omics has already shown us that the full range of biodiversity on planet Earth extends from molecules up to communities so any knowledge about the variety of systems and networks within cells can only further enhance our insights into how best to preserve the biodiversity around us. Genomics, for instance, informs decisions in conservation biology.

But what is also very exciting about this remarkable growth in omics is that it reminds us how new fields of study are all based on research done in the past and that can open numerous avenues of research, furthering our understanding of the world around us.

Source for all publication records: Scopus

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The genomics explosion

1976: First virus genome sequenced

1987: “Genomics” coined to describe this growing research field

1995: First genome of a living organism published (of the bacterium Haemophilus influenzae)

2000: First draft of the human genome published, swiftly followed by numerous other genomes

The United Nations has declared 2010 the International Year of Biodiversity. To many, “biodiversity” simply means the number and variety of species. But biodiversity actually refers to all life on Earth, from molecules all the way up to entire ecological communities.

Over the past 30 years, our understanding of biodiversity has evolved, informing and being informed by parallel developments in the study of systems within cells; that is, of genomes, protein pathways, and metabolites. These fields of study are often collectively referred to as “omics”.

From genomics to omics

Fuelled by technical and methodological advances since the 1970s, notable landmarks have been achieved in the study of the genome, or the complete set of genetic information that makes up an organism, over the last 40 years (see box). This has been matched by a significant and steady increase in the number of publications in this field (see Figure 1).

Figure 1 – Publications in the research field of genomes (later known as genomics) soared between 1960 and 2009.

Figure 1 – Publications in the research field of genomes (later known as genomics) soared between 1960 and 2009. Source: keyword search in Scopus.

The growth in genomics research, and its maturation as a scientific field, has led to the creation of a number of offshoot "omics" research fields, each of which is also experiencing a steady rate of growth (see Figure 2).

Figure 2 – Output in several sub-fields of genomic research has seen marked growth in just five years.

Figure 2 – Output in several sub-fields of genomic research has seen marked growth in just five years. Source: keyword search in Scopus.

These new fields are information intensive and build on the large quantities of data produced by genomics research. The first fields to enter strong growth phases on the back of genomics research were proteomics and transcriptomics. Both these fields are concerned with the direct products made from the recipes encoded in the genome: proteins (via mRNA) and RNA transcribed directly from the genomic DNA code. Proteomics and transcriptomics were first featured in the peer-reviewed literature circa 1997 and 1998 respectively.

Many proteins and RNA molecules shepherd processes within a cell: making new molecules, breaking them down and facilitating interactions. Intense study into these phenomena within genomics, proteomics and transcriptomics has, in turn, spawned three more research fields, stimulated by the wealth of research on which they can build (see Figure 2). Metabolomics is concerned with small molecules, glycomics with carbohydrate molecules, and interactomics with the interactions between large molecules.

And still growing…

The next stage, of course, is to extend studies to beyond the boundaries of a cell. “Secretomics” is the study of gene products secreted from the cell. In the last five years, research output has begun to grow rapidly in this area, with 99 research papers published in 2009. And, if the growth trajectories of transcriptomics (1,615 documents in 2009), proteonomics (4,828 documents in 2009) and genomics (21,229 documents in 2009) are good indicators, there is a lot of potential ahead for these new fields, and by extension, for our understanding of biodiversity in general.

Omics has already shown us that the full range of biodiversity on planet Earth extends from molecules up to communities so any knowledge about the variety of systems and networks within cells can only further enhance our insights into how best to preserve the biodiversity around us. Genomics, for instance, informs decisions in conservation biology.

But what is also very exciting about this remarkable growth in omics is that it reminds us how new fields of study are all based on research done in the past and that can open numerous avenues of research, furthering our understanding of the world around us.

Source for all publication records: Scopus

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Identifying expertise in water management

With water becoming an increasingly scarce resource, governments around the world are eager to find innovative solutions. Research Trends analyzes the data to locate the global centers for water research.

Read more >


Although approximately two-thirds of the Earth is covered in water, just 2.5 percent of this is fresh, 70 percent of which is frozen. This means that all creatures living outside the sea have to share 0.75 percent of the world’s water. As consumption increases, governments, economists and researchers around the world are paying greater attention to the world’s supply of fresh water.

Painting an accurate picture of how universities and countries are performing on water research is critical for identifying the potential solutions emerging from this science. Without proper insight, academic and government bodies cannot make appropriate funding decisions or develop strategic blueprints that will lead them to the scientific breakthroughs crucial to long-term solutions and economic success.

Recently, a study was conducted on academic research on the topic of “water resources” using Scopus data and SciVal Spotlight, a performance-measurement tool based on a detailed model of the current structure of science. This study was presented at the Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable in July 2010 in Washington. Here, we present some of the characterizations of the field.

The study clearly illustrates a marked increase in research output in this area over the past decade, reflecting rising global concerns (see Figure 1).

Figure 1 – Article output in water resources increased almost 30 percent between 2000 and 2009. For comparison, over the same timeframe, the average growth rate for academic research was just 3 percent while the keyword “nano-”, indicating another current hot topic, rose 20 percent.

Figure 1 – Article output in water resources increased almost 30 percent between 2000 and 2009. For comparison, over the same timeframe, the average growth rate for academic research was just 3 percent while the keyword “nano-”, indicating another current hot topic, rose 20 percent. Source: Scopus.

Deluge from the US and China

Publications originate from a wide range of countries, reflecting international interest. The US and China are leading the field (see Figure 2), with several other countries picking up pace. Research output in Iran, Mexico and Denmark is rising sharply. Iran, for instance, produced 96 papers on water resources in 2009, compared with just 12 papers between 1970 and 2000.

Figure 2 – Output and citations per paper, per country (2005–2008).

Figure 2 – Output and citations per paper, per country (2005–2008). Source: Scopus.

SciVal Spotlight also allows us to take a closer look at the research landscape at a country level. Taking China as a test case, we can see that it is especially strong in many applied scientific subject areas, including the computer sciences, chemistry and engineering (see Figure 3). However, they also have a significant cluster of strengths around biology and biotechnology. In fact, 28 of China’s 463 competencies (6.04 percent) are in water research, with the highest concentration in water treatment and waste water. This is perhaps not surprising given its local challenges with water pollution.

Figure 3 – The Scival Spotlight country map for China shows where its core competencies lie (2008 data).

Figure 3 – The Scival Spotlight country map for China shows where its core competencies lie (2008 data). Source: Scopus.

In contrast, the US has 81 competencies (of a total 1,635, 4.95 percent) in water research, with relative strengths in wastewater, water resources and freshwater biology. In the UK, 16 of its 361 competencies are related to water research (4.43 percent), with a distribution similar to that of the US.

Global focus increases impact

The type of research varies by country, too. China is highly focused on solutions to local challenges while research carried out in the US is more concerned with global issues.

As for impact, Sweden and Switzerland are leading the field, with the highest citations per paper (see Figure 2). Sweden has published four papers with more than 50 citations, totaling 217. Its top articles were published in Nature and Science. Switzerland has published three papers with more than 50 citations, totaling 161. The top paper was published in the Lancet.

If we look at the institutes that are particularly strong in the field of water resources (see Figure 4), some stand out. Tel Aviv produced less than 25 papers, but one of those received more than 150 citations, more than half of Tel Aviv’s total citations. The Chinese Academy of Sciences, at the other extreme, produced more than 250 papers with fewer than 2.6 citations per article, due to the local focus of their papers. In the webinar version of this study, institutional maps are shown for the Australian Commonwealth Scientific Research Organization, Princeton and USDA.

Figure 4 – While some institutes are producing few, highly cited papers, like Tel Aviv, others are publishing numerous studies on local issues, like the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), which attract fewer citations.

Figure 4 – While some institutes are producing few, highly cited papers, like Tel Aviv, others are publishing numerous studies on local issues, like the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), which attract fewer citations. Source: Scopus.

Multidisciplinary approach

It is also apparent that water research is becoming more multidisciplinary in nature (see Figure 5). Mathematicians, economists and computer scientists are increasingly contributing to research into solutions for our water challenges. This multidisciplinary approach to our most urgent environmental challenges is not limited to water resources. Research Trends has noted this trend in several past issues, such as alternative energy research and other environmental challenges.

Figure 5 – Annual growth rate of water resources output per subject area (2005–2008). Source: Scopus.

Figure 5 – Annual growth rate of water resources output per subject area (2005–2008).

This multidisciplinary approach is presenting bibliometricians with their own set of challenges. In particular, it is getting more difficult to fully comprehend a research area by simply looking at the output within journal categories, as many important papers cross the traditional subject classifications. Fortunately, technological solutions are helping us understand many emerging and multidisciplinary fields. Identifying hot spots in water research helps us know where it is moving and where we might want to offer incentives to drive it.

For all our most pressing challenges, research is needed more than ever. We desperately need solutions to alleviate the suffering that badly managed water resources cause millions around the world. Getting an accurate picture of where the best research is being carried out can only help governments better allocate another scarce resource – funding.

Useful links

SciVal webinar on water resources

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Although approximately two-thirds of the Earth is covered in water, just 2.5 percent of this is fresh, 70 percent of which is frozen. This means that all creatures living outside the sea have to share 0.75 percent of the world’s water. As consumption increases, governments, economists and researchers around the world are paying greater attention to the world’s supply of fresh water.

Painting an accurate picture of how universities and countries are performing on water research is critical for identifying the potential solutions emerging from this science. Without proper insight, academic and government bodies cannot make appropriate funding decisions or develop strategic blueprints that will lead them to the scientific breakthroughs crucial to long-term solutions and economic success.

Recently, a study was conducted on academic research on the topic of “water resources” using Scopus data and SciVal Spotlight, a performance-measurement tool based on a detailed model of the current structure of science. This study was presented at the Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable in July 2010 in Washington. Here, we present some of the characterizations of the field.

The study clearly illustrates a marked increase in research output in this area over the past decade, reflecting rising global concerns (see Figure 1).

Figure 1 – Article output in water resources increased almost 30 percent between 2000 and 2009. For comparison, over the same timeframe, the average growth rate for academic research was just 3 percent while the keyword “nano-”, indicating another current hot topic, rose 20 percent.

Figure 1 – Article output in water resources increased almost 30 percent between 2000 and 2009. For comparison, over the same timeframe, the average growth rate for academic research was just 3 percent while the keyword “nano-”, indicating another current hot topic, rose 20 percent. Source: Scopus.

Deluge from the US and China

Publications originate from a wide range of countries, reflecting international interest. The US and China are leading the field (see Figure 2), with several other countries picking up pace. Research output in Iran, Mexico and Denmark is rising sharply. Iran, for instance, produced 96 papers on water resources in 2009, compared with just 12 papers between 1970 and 2000.

Figure 2 – Output and citations per paper, per country (2005–2008).

Figure 2 – Output and citations per paper, per country (2005–2008). Source: Scopus.

SciVal Spotlight also allows us to take a closer look at the research landscape at a country level. Taking China as a test case, we can see that it is especially strong in many applied scientific subject areas, including the computer sciences, chemistry and engineering (see Figure 3). However, they also have a significant cluster of strengths around biology and biotechnology. In fact, 28 of China’s 463 competencies (6.04 percent) are in water research, with the highest concentration in water treatment and waste water. This is perhaps not surprising given its local challenges with water pollution.

Figure 3 – The Scival Spotlight country map for China shows where its core competencies lie (2008 data).

Figure 3 – The Scival Spotlight country map for China shows where its core competencies lie (2008 data). Source: Scopus.

In contrast, the US has 81 competencies (of a total 1,635, 4.95 percent) in water research, with relative strengths in wastewater, water resources and freshwater biology. In the UK, 16 of its 361 competencies are related to water research (4.43 percent), with a distribution similar to that of the US.

Global focus increases impact

The type of research varies by country, too. China is highly focused on solutions to local challenges while research carried out in the US is more concerned with global issues.

As for impact, Sweden and Switzerland are leading the field, with the highest citations per paper (see Figure 2). Sweden has published four papers with more than 50 citations, totaling 217. Its top articles were published in Nature and Science. Switzerland has published three papers with more than 50 citations, totaling 161. The top paper was published in the Lancet.

If we look at the institutes that are particularly strong in the field of water resources (see Figure 4), some stand out. Tel Aviv produced less than 25 papers, but one of those received more than 150 citations, more than half of Tel Aviv’s total citations. The Chinese Academy of Sciences, at the other extreme, produced more than 250 papers with fewer than 2.6 citations per article, due to the local focus of their papers. In the webinar version of this study, institutional maps are shown for the Australian Commonwealth Scientific Research Organization, Princeton and USDA.

Figure 4 – While some institutes are producing few, highly cited papers, like Tel Aviv, others are publishing numerous studies on local issues, like the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), which attract fewer citations.

Figure 4 – While some institutes are producing few, highly cited papers, like Tel Aviv, others are publishing numerous studies on local issues, like the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), which attract fewer citations. Source: Scopus.

Multidisciplinary approach

It is also apparent that water research is becoming more multidisciplinary in nature (see Figure 5). Mathematicians, economists and computer scientists are increasingly contributing to research into solutions for our water challenges. This multidisciplinary approach to our most urgent environmental challenges is not limited to water resources. Research Trends has noted this trend in several past issues, such as alternative energy research and other environmental challenges.

Figure 5 – Annual growth rate of water resources output per subject area (2005–2008). Source: Scopus.

Figure 5 – Annual growth rate of water resources output per subject area (2005–2008).

This multidisciplinary approach is presenting bibliometricians with their own set of challenges. In particular, it is getting more difficult to fully comprehend a research area by simply looking at the output within journal categories, as many important papers cross the traditional subject classifications. Fortunately, technological solutions are helping us understand many emerging and multidisciplinary fields. Identifying hot spots in water research helps us know where it is moving and where we might want to offer incentives to drive it.

For all our most pressing challenges, research is needed more than ever. We desperately need solutions to alleviate the suffering that badly managed water resources cause millions around the world. Getting an accurate picture of where the best research is being carried out can only help governments better allocate another scarce resource – funding.

Useful links

SciVal webinar on water resources

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Assessing the Shanghai Rankings

The Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), popularly known as the ‘Shanghai Rankings’, is one of the most cited university rankings in the world. We look at its evaluation criteria and how it is perceived by the academic community.

Read more >


The ranking of universities internationally has become more commonplace in recent years. This seems to be predominantly connected to competition and accountability. Students are increasingly moving across national borders and want to compare faculties and departments in different countries, universities want to attract the best teachers and researchers, and there is an increasing feeling that the public is entitled to know how institutes that benefit from public funds are performing (1).

The two most frequently cited university rankings are: the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), from Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) in China; and the World University Rankings, from the Times Higher Education Supplement (THES), a London-based weekly newspaper, in cooperation with its research and data analysis arm Quacquarelli Symonds (QS).

ARWU, often referred to simply as the ‘Shanghai Rankings’, was originally developed to compare Chinese universities with others worldwide, with particular reference to academic and research performance. The rankings, which cover 500 universities, including Tsinghua University in China, have been posted annually on the university’s website since 2003. THES has published its rankings annually since 2004. The assessment indicators and their weightings used in both rankings are outlined in the sidebar.

Academic debate

Both rankings have been the subject of considerable debate since their inception, garnering both positive and negative reactions from the academic community. “For the most part the [Shanghai Rankings] are methodologically sound and a valid basis for synchronic global comparisons,” said Professor Simon Marginson, Chair in Higher Education at the University of Melbourne, Australia in a paper delivered at a conference of the Asia-Pacific Association for International Education in Singapore in March 2007. Alex Usher, Vice President of the Educational Policy Institute, a US non-profit organization, commented on the institute’s website last November that he believes the Shanghai Rankings to be superior to the THES Rankings at the moment.

Science bias

However, others have criticized the Shanghai Rankings for being biased towards science-focused institutions because of the publication outlets considered and the extraordinary amount of citations in these fields. This is a bias that SJTU is aware of, as evidenced in a paper published by the Rankings’ founders in 2004: “Many well-known institutions specialized in humanities and social sciences are ranked relatively low partly because of the imbalances in the production of articles among various subject fields. The Ranking Group tried hard but was unsuccessful in finding additional indicators that are special for humanities and social sciences” (2).

Despite their flaws, however, and a concern that rankings promote a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to assessment, it is generally agreed among the academic community that these two rankings are the most comprehensive efforts available at present to rank universities internationally.

References:

(1) Holmes, R. (2006), “The THES Rankings: Are they really world class?”, Asian Journal of University Education, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 2.
(2) Liu, N.C., Cheng, Y. (2005) “Academic Ranking of World Universities – Methodologies and Problems”, Higher Education In Europe, Vol. 80, No. 2, pp. 10.

Shanghai Rankings (weighted scores)

Total number of staff (contributes 20% of the overall Ranking score) and alumni of institutions (10%) having won Nobel Prizes or Fields Medals

Number of highly cited researchers in 21 different disciplines (20%)

Number of articles published in Nature and Science (20%)

Total number of articles indexed by Science Citation Index and Social Science Citation Index (20%)

Research performance (total scores of the above) per head of staff (10%)

For definitions of indicators and further details, click here.

World University Rankings (THES)

Research quality (peer review 40%, citations per faculty 20%)

Graduate employability (recruiter review 10%)

International outlook (international faculty 5%, international students 5%)

Teaching quality (student faculty 20%)

For further details, click here.

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The ranking of universities internationally has become more commonplace in recent years. This seems to be predominantly connected to competition and accountability. Students are increasingly moving across national borders and want to compare faculties and departments in different countries, universities want to attract the best teachers and researchers, and there is an increasing feeling that the public is entitled to know how institutes that benefit from public funds are performing (1).

The two most frequently cited university rankings are: the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), from Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU) in China; and the World University Rankings, from the Times Higher Education Supplement (THES), a London-based weekly newspaper, in cooperation with its research and data analysis arm Quacquarelli Symonds (QS).

ARWU, often referred to simply as the ‘Shanghai Rankings’, was originally developed to compare Chinese universities with others worldwide, with particular reference to academic and research performance. The rankings, which cover 500 universities, including Tsinghua University in China, have been posted annually on the university’s website since 2003. THES has published its rankings annually since 2004. The assessment indicators and their weightings used in both rankings are outlined in the sidebar.

Academic debate

Both rankings have been the subject of considerable debate since their inception, garnering both positive and negative reactions from the academic community. “For the most part the [Shanghai Rankings] are methodologically sound and a valid basis for synchronic global comparisons,” said Professor Simon Marginson, Chair in Higher Education at the University of Melbourne, Australia in a paper delivered at a conference of the Asia-Pacific Association for International Education in Singapore in March 2007. Alex Usher, Vice President of the Educational Policy Institute, a US non-profit organization, commented on the institute’s website last November that he believes the Shanghai Rankings to be superior to the THES Rankings at the moment.

Science bias

However, others have criticized the Shanghai Rankings for being biased towards science-focused institutions because of the publication outlets considered and the extraordinary amount of citations in these fields. This is a bias that SJTU is aware of, as evidenced in a paper published by the Rankings’ founders in 2004: “Many well-known institutions specialized in humanities and social sciences are ranked relatively low partly because of the imbalances in the production of articles among various subject fields. The Ranking Group tried hard but was unsuccessful in finding additional indicators that are special for humanities and social sciences” (2).

Despite their flaws, however, and a concern that rankings promote a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to assessment, it is generally agreed among the academic community that these two rankings are the most comprehensive efforts available at present to rank universities internationally.

References:

(1) Holmes, R. (2006), “The THES Rankings: Are they really world class?”, Asian Journal of University Education, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 2.
(2) Liu, N.C., Cheng, Y. (2005) “Academic Ranking of World Universities – Methodologies and Problems”, Higher Education In Europe, Vol. 80, No. 2, pp. 10.

Shanghai Rankings (weighted scores)

Total number of staff (contributes 20% of the overall Ranking score) and alumni of institutions (10%) having won Nobel Prizes or Fields Medals

Number of highly cited researchers in 21 different disciplines (20%)

Number of articles published in Nature and Science (20%)

Total number of articles indexed by Science Citation Index and Social Science Citation Index (20%)

Research performance (total scores of the above) per head of staff (10%)

For definitions of indicators and further details, click here.

World University Rankings (THES)

Research quality (peer review 40%, citations per faculty 20%)

Graduate employability (recruiter review 10%)

International outlook (international faculty 5%, international students 5%)

Teaching quality (student faculty 20%)

For further details, click here.

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Why did you cite…?

In this section of Research Trends, we talk to the authors of top-cited articles. This issue, we select papers from the two UK universities that had the highest ranking increase in the 2007 THES-QS World University Rankings: Lancaster and Surrey. We ask the authors why they think they were cited and why those who cited them chose to do so.

Read more >


The Times Higher Education Supplement has identified the Universities of Lancaster and Surrey as the most improved UK universities. These universities’ most cited articles between 2002 and 2006 are:

  • Lyth (Lancaster University) and Wands (University of Portsmouth), “Generating the curvature perturbation without an inflaton”, 2002, Physics Letters, Section B: Nuclear, Elementary Particle and High-Energy Physics, Vol. 524, No. 1-2, pp. 5-14.
  • Ioannides (University of Surrey), “Pharmacokinetic interactions between herbal remedies and medicinal drugs”, 2002, Xenobiotica, Vol. 32, No. 6, pp. 451-478.

Opening up new research areas is a strong theme for UK research and something which is echoed by Professor Costas Ioannides from the University of Surrey, the institute showing the second highest increase in ranking. Professor Ioannides indicated that his paper “was the first published review to address herb-drug interactions from a mechanistic, rather than a descriptive, point of view. In fact, this is what prompted me to write this review in the first place.”

Professor David Lyth, commenting on his own paper, said, “I believe it was highly cited because it opened up a completely new possibility as to why structure exists in the Universe. We pointed out a completely different type of quantum fluctuation, which could lie dormant until a much later era. We called this fluctuation a ‘curvaton'. It has opened up many new possible avenues of research, and both the name and the idea have been taken up by many people.”

One of the scientists who has cited Professor Lyth's paper several times is Dr. Marieke Postma of the FOM-Institute of Subatomic Physics NIKHEF, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. When asked why she had cited this article, she said, “They came up with a new and original idea. Up until that point the usual lore was that the field responsible for inflaton was the same as that generating the observed density perturbations. This paper said, no, not necessarily, and gave an explicit scenario in which some other field (the "curvaton" field) was creating the density perturbations instead. The curvaton scenario opened up new ways of thinking. [We became] intrigued by that, and started exploring the consequences…”

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The Times Higher Education Supplement has identified the Universities of Lancaster and Surrey as the most improved UK universities. These universities’ most cited articles between 2002 and 2006 are:

  • Lyth (Lancaster University) and Wands (University of Portsmouth), “Generating the curvature perturbation without an inflaton”, 2002, Physics Letters, Section B: Nuclear, Elementary Particle and High-Energy Physics, Vol. 524, No. 1-2, pp. 5-14.
  • Ioannides (University of Surrey), “Pharmacokinetic interactions between herbal remedies and medicinal drugs”, 2002, Xenobiotica, Vol. 32, No. 6, pp. 451-478.

Opening up new research areas is a strong theme for UK research and something which is echoed by Professor Costas Ioannides from the University of Surrey, the institute showing the second highest increase in ranking. Professor Ioannides indicated that his paper “was the first published review to address herb-drug interactions from a mechanistic, rather than a descriptive, point of view. In fact, this is what prompted me to write this review in the first place.”

Professor David Lyth, commenting on his own paper, said, “I believe it was highly cited because it opened up a completely new possibility as to why structure exists in the Universe. We pointed out a completely different type of quantum fluctuation, which could lie dormant until a much later era. We called this fluctuation a ‘curvaton'. It has opened up many new possible avenues of research, and both the name and the idea have been taken up by many people.”

One of the scientists who has cited Professor Lyth's paper several times is Dr. Marieke Postma of the FOM-Institute of Subatomic Physics NIKHEF, Amsterdam, The Netherlands. When asked why she had cited this article, she said, “They came up with a new and original idea. Up until that point the usual lore was that the field responsible for inflaton was the same as that generating the observed density perturbations. This paper said, no, not necessarily, and gave an explicit scenario in which some other field (the "curvaton" field) was creating the density perturbations instead. The curvaton scenario opened up new ways of thinking. [We became] intrigued by that, and started exploring the consequences…”

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What is the best way to assess academic research?

The Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) will be conducted in the United Kingdom for the last time this year. The results will determine funding for higher education institutions for the next five years. Bahram Bekhradnia, Director of think tank HEPI, discusses his views of the RAE and whether he thinks the proposed new Research Excellence Framework will result in better funding allocation.

Read more >


This year will be the last time the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) is conducted in the United Kingdom. From 2009, this system for assessing research quality at higher education institutions will be replaced by the Research Excellence Framework (REF). Submissions for the 2008 RAE closed on November 30, but institutions will have to wait until December 2008 to find out the results that will determine funding for the next five years. In the meantime, we talk to Bahram Bekhradnia, Director of the independent think tank Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), about his views of the RAE and whether he thinks the REF will result in better funding allocation.

As in most areas where funding is required, the calls on research funding are far greater than the resources available. “As a result there has to be rationing. The highest quality research should receive the most funding,” Bekhradnia says. “One can’t assume that the most prestigious universities produce the best research, however, so there has to be a system in place to assess research quality. This is what the RAE sets out to do.”

Similarly, as in most areas where demand outstrips supply, the RAE has seen its share of what Bekhradnia calls “game playing” or exploiting the rules to one’s own advantage (see also Dr. Moed's analysis in Research Trends).This has manifested itself in hiring and research decisions designed to attain the most favorable funding results. The RAE is currently based on review of research by distinguished discipline-based panels. The REF will be much more statistics based. However, while there is currently quite some discussion on whether bibliometrics, and in particular citation analysis, is a suitable way to measure quality, there is little doubt that the RAE enables assessments of quality.

Time for change
If the RAE aims to assess research quality in order to allocate resources appropriately, and it seems to be achieving this aim, this begs the question of why the system is changing. The main reasons put forth by the Higher Education Funding Council for England are that the RAE is expensive and burdensome for the participating institutions. Bekhradnia is not yet entirely convinced the REF will be less so on either of these fronts but believes that if bibliometrics are to be used in future, they should not dominate the assessment process. “The UK has a strong research reputation, but we should be cautious of any system that will lead to a concentration of research strength at too small a number of institutions. The ideal assessment method would be peer review informed by bibliometrics.”

Downloadable versions of HEPI reports, which include analyses of the RAE and REF, can be found here.

For an overview of the RAE, click here.

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This year will be the last time the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) is conducted in the United Kingdom. From 2009, this system for assessing research quality at higher education institutions will be replaced by the Research Excellence Framework (REF). Submissions for the 2008 RAE closed on November 30, but institutions will have to wait until December 2008 to find out the results that will determine funding for the next five years. In the meantime, we talk to Bahram Bekhradnia, Director of the independent think tank Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), about his views of the RAE and whether he thinks the REF will result in better funding allocation.

As in most areas where funding is required, the calls on research funding are far greater than the resources available. “As a result there has to be rationing. The highest quality research should receive the most funding,” Bekhradnia says. “One can’t assume that the most prestigious universities produce the best research, however, so there has to be a system in place to assess research quality. This is what the RAE sets out to do.”

Similarly, as in most areas where demand outstrips supply, the RAE has seen its share of what Bekhradnia calls “game playing” or exploiting the rules to one’s own advantage (see also Dr. Moed's analysis in Research Trends).This has manifested itself in hiring and research decisions designed to attain the most favorable funding results. The RAE is currently based on review of research by distinguished discipline-based panels. The REF will be much more statistics based. However, while there is currently quite some discussion on whether bibliometrics, and in particular citation analysis, is a suitable way to measure quality, there is little doubt that the RAE enables assessments of quality.

Time for change
If the RAE aims to assess research quality in order to allocate resources appropriately, and it seems to be achieving this aim, this begs the question of why the system is changing. The main reasons put forth by the Higher Education Funding Council for England are that the RAE is expensive and burdensome for the participating institutions. Bekhradnia is not yet entirely convinced the REF will be less so on either of these fronts but believes that if bibliometrics are to be used in future, they should not dominate the assessment process. “The UK has a strong research reputation, but we should be cautious of any system that will lead to a concentration of research strength at too small a number of institutions. The ideal assessment method would be peer review informed by bibliometrics.”

Downloadable versions of HEPI reports, which include analyses of the RAE and REF, can be found here.

For an overview of the RAE, click here.

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UK universities climb in THES rankings

The 2007 THES-QS World University Rankings, published in November, identified 32 UK universities among the top 200 world universities. We look at the UK institution whose ranking increased the most between 2006 and 2007 and discuss this increase with its top-cited author.

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In November 2007 the Times Higher Education Supplement (THES), in cooperation with QS (Quacquarelli Symonds), published its annual QS World University Rankings. Since its inception in 2004, this ranking system has developed into one of the most robust measures of comparative international university quality.

The 2007 rankings identify 32 UK universities among the top 200 from around the world. The top 10 of these UK universities are identified in Table 1 below.

Fig 1

Most of these top 10 universities show positive changes in their ranking between 2006 and 2007. Indeed, the University of Bristol increased 27 places, King’s College London increased 22 places and both University College London and the University of Warwick increased 16 places. However, these were not the highest climbers among the UK universities. Table 2 illustrates the UK universities that increased the most within the top 200.

THES made several key changes to its methodology last year. Perhaps the most significant of these is the use of Scopus data to compile the World University Rankings. This will certainly have had an impact on universities’ movement up and down the rankings, but there are many other contributing factors that could have affected the scores. With this in mind, we asked the top-cited author from Lancaster University, the university with the highest rank increase, why he thinks his institution performed so well.

The most cited article from Lancaster University between 2002-2006 was authored by Professor David Lyth and co-authored by Professor David Wands of the University of Plymouth (“Generating the curvature perturbation without an inflaton”, 2002, Physics Letters, Section B: Nuclear, Elementary Particle and High-Energy Physics, Vol. 524, No. 1-2, pp. 5-14). Professor Lyth, commenting on his university’s impressive jump in ranking, says that “there has been a change in the methodology of our research - more thorough peer review and no self-citing of one's own institution is permitted. In addition, we have seen strong growth in staff numbers; in the physics department we have seen academic and research staff numbers grow by nearly 50% in the past six years.”

This article has shown a strong presence for UK universities in the THES rankings. The UK has a continued trend for quality research output, which is often groundbreaking and opens up the possibility for many other studies in new areas. 2007 was the first year THES employed its new methodology and several institutes have shown promising jumps in its rankings, based in part on their research. Future rankings will show whether they can maintain and cement their leading international positions.

To find out more about why Professors Lyth and Wand's paper was cited, please also visit Why did you cite...?

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In November 2007 the Times Higher Education Supplement (THES), in cooperation with QS (Quacquarelli Symonds), published its annual QS World University Rankings. Since its inception in 2004, this ranking system has developed into one of the most robust measures of comparative international university quality.

The 2007 rankings identify 32 UK universities among the top 200 from around the world. The top 10 of these UK universities are identified in Table 1 below.

Fig 1

Most of these top 10 universities show positive changes in their ranking between 2006 and 2007. Indeed, the University of Bristol increased 27 places, King’s College London increased 22 places and both University College London and the University of Warwick increased 16 places. However, these were not the highest climbers among the UK universities. Table 2 illustrates the UK universities that increased the most within the top 200.

THES made several key changes to its methodology last year. Perhaps the most significant of these is the use of Scopus data to compile the World University Rankings. This will certainly have had an impact on universities’ movement up and down the rankings, but there are many other contributing factors that could have affected the scores. With this in mind, we asked the top-cited author from Lancaster University, the university with the highest rank increase, why he thinks his institution performed so well.

The most cited article from Lancaster University between 2002-2006 was authored by Professor David Lyth and co-authored by Professor David Wands of the University of Plymouth (“Generating the curvature perturbation without an inflaton”, 2002, Physics Letters, Section B: Nuclear, Elementary Particle and High-Energy Physics, Vol. 524, No. 1-2, pp. 5-14). Professor Lyth, commenting on his university’s impressive jump in ranking, says that “there has been a change in the methodology of our research - more thorough peer review and no self-citing of one's own institution is permitted. In addition, we have seen strong growth in staff numbers; in the physics department we have seen academic and research staff numbers grow by nearly 50% in the past six years.”

This article has shown a strong presence for UK universities in the THES rankings. The UK has a continued trend for quality research output, which is often groundbreaking and opens up the possibility for many other studies in new areas. 2007 was the first year THES employed its new methodology and several institutes have shown promising jumps in its rankings, based in part on their research. Future rankings will show whether they can maintain and cement their leading international positions.

To find out more about why Professors Lyth and Wand's paper was cited, please also visit Why did you cite...?

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The effects of bibliometric indicators on research evaluation

Bibliometric investigators are becoming increasingly aware of the need to take the side-effects of bilbiometric indicators into account when evaluating a scholar’s publication and referencing practices. Dr. Henk Moed explains why.

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Dr. Henk F. Moed
Centre for Science and Technology Studies (CWTS),
Leiden University, the Netherlands
moed@cwts.leidenuniv.nl

Bibliometric investigators - and other members of the scholarly community and research policy arena - are increasingly aware of the need to analyze and take into account the side-effects of bibliometric indicators when evaluating a scholars’ publication and referencing practices. Evidence of these effects is often informal, or even anecdotal, but recent studies have begun to examine these effects in a systematic way.

A longitudinal bibliometric analysis of UK science, covering almost 20 years, revealed three distinct patterns in scientists’ behavior. This was in response to the principal evaluation criteria applied in the Research Assessment Exercises (RAE) of 1992, 1996 and 2001 and was aimed at attaining the most favorable funding results (1). When total publication counts were requested for the 1992 RAE, UK scientists substantially increased their article production. Further evidence of this type of behavior was observed when a shift from 'quantity' to 'quality' in evaluation criteria was announced for the 1996 RAE; in response, UK authors gradually increased their number of papers in journals with a relatively high impact factor. Prior to the 2001 RAE, evaluated units shifted back from ‘quality’ to ‘quantity’, particularly by encouraging their members to collaborate or at least co-author more intensively, and thus increase the number of active research staff.

Sophisticated indicators based on citations are more informative of a group’s research performance and less easily manipulated than indicators based on the number of papers published in journals with a high citation impact factor. For instance, a high impact group can receive its citations from hundreds of different institutions. The distribution of citations among citing institutions is skewed, and the contribution of its tail is large. Making ‘citation trading’ arrangements with a few institutions will not have such a profound effect on citation counts as to significantly benefit an author’s reputation, and thus potentially also funding received.

Nevertheless, it cannot be claimed that such indicators are not affected by strategic behavior. I am very keen to be notified of cases of actual, or probable, strategic behavior by authors and journal editors directly aimed at influencing bibliometric indicators. When measuring methods are refined, researchers are likely to manipulate any shortcomings that arise. I would welcome any information on these shortcomings that may help improve those methods. Please feel free to contact me.

References:

(1) Moed, H.F. (2008) “UK Research Assessment Exercises: Informed judgments on research quality or quantity?” Scientometrics, Vol. 74, pp. 141-149.
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Dr. Henk F. Moed
Centre for Science and Technology Studies (CWTS),
Leiden University, the Netherlands
moed@cwts.leidenuniv.nl

Bibliometric investigators - and other members of the scholarly community and research policy arena - are increasingly aware of the need to analyze and take into account the side-effects of bibliometric indicators when evaluating a scholars’ publication and referencing practices. Evidence of these effects is often informal, or even anecdotal, but recent studies have begun to examine these effects in a systematic way.

A longitudinal bibliometric analysis of UK science, covering almost 20 years, revealed three distinct patterns in scientists’ behavior. This was in response to the principal evaluation criteria applied in the Research Assessment Exercises (RAE) of 1992, 1996 and 2001 and was aimed at attaining the most favorable funding results (1). When total publication counts were requested for the 1992 RAE, UK scientists substantially increased their article production. Further evidence of this type of behavior was observed when a shift from 'quantity' to 'quality' in evaluation criteria was announced for the 1996 RAE; in response, UK authors gradually increased their number of papers in journals with a relatively high impact factor. Prior to the 2001 RAE, evaluated units shifted back from ‘quality’ to ‘quantity’, particularly by encouraging their members to collaborate or at least co-author more intensively, and thus increase the number of active research staff.

Sophisticated indicators based on citations are more informative of a group’s research performance and less easily manipulated than indicators based on the number of papers published in journals with a high citation impact factor. For instance, a high impact group can receive its citations from hundreds of different institutions. The distribution of citations among citing institutions is skewed, and the contribution of its tail is large. Making ‘citation trading’ arrangements with a few institutions will not have such a profound effect on citation counts as to significantly benefit an author’s reputation, and thus potentially also funding received.

Nevertheless, it cannot be claimed that such indicators are not affected by strategic behavior. I am very keen to be notified of cases of actual, or probable, strategic behavior by authors and journal editors directly aimed at influencing bibliometric indicators. When measuring methods are refined, researchers are likely to manipulate any shortcomings that arise. I would welcome any information on these shortcomings that may help improve those methods. Please feel free to contact me.

References:

(1) Moed, H.F. (2008) “UK Research Assessment Exercises: Informed judgments on research quality or quantity?” Scientometrics, Vol. 74, pp. 141-149.
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  • Elsevier has recently launched the International Center for the Study of Research - ICSR - to help create a more transparent approach to research assessment. Its mission is to encourage the examination of research using an array of metrics and a variety of qualitative and quantitive methods.