Research Fronts 2014: The Latest Look at Science's Hottest Fields

December 2014

To identify the most prominent and fast-moving fields in current research, Thomson Reuters and its collaborators have turned once again to Research Fronts—those specialty areas identified by analysis of citation data tracked in the Web of Science. A new report, “Research Fronts 2014: 100 Top Ranked Specialties in the Sciences and Social Sciences,” draws upon Web of Science data to highlight notably hot and emerging fields. This newest installment of the report updates the edition that appeared in 2013.

For the new report, Thomson Reuters joined with analysts at the National Science Library of the Chinese Academy of Sciences to form a collaborative project, the Joint Research Center of Emerging Technology Analysis. Consulting InCites Essential Science Indicators, a research-analytics platform within the Web of Science, the team identified and ranked more than 100 Research Fronts representing 10 broad areas of scientific and scholarly investigation.

Research Fronts are self-organizing clusters that form when researchers cite the previous work that is most germane and important to their efforts. Papers that are frequently cited together form a foundational “core,” surrounded by the later papers that have cited the core group. Together, the core and citing papers constitute the front—a discrete specialty area, based entirely on the cognitive links forged by the researchers themselves.

For the new report, the analysts selected fronts according to core literature that met two criteria: highly cited as well as comparatively recent. These combined benchmarks served to capture the “hottest” fronts based on citation impact and relative newness. One hundred fronts were identified in this manner. Additionally, the analysts identified 44 “emerging” fronts based on the most-recent core literature, an indicator of a new specialty undergoing rapid change.  

The 144 resulting fronts cover a broad range of inquiry, including new aspects of climate modeling, genomic analysis, clinical treatment, the generation and storage of energy, and explorations from subatomic particles to the reaches of space, to name a few.

The report examines several fronts in detail, highlighting the authors, institutions, and countries most prominent in the core literature, providing a rounded picture of the given specialty.

To access the full report, please click here.

Note: In the report, the top-ranked front in Biological Sciences (p. 25) concerns research on the C9orf72 gene, in which a mutation has been linked to both frontotemporal dementia and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Regarding the latter condition: a recent video from Thomson Reuters examines ALS research, from the philanthropic silliness of last summer’s “ice bucket challenges” to the serious business of ALS and its causes, incidence, and clinical course, as well as the primary pharmaceutical strategies being pursued to treat and prevent it.  To watch the video, click here.

The data and citation records included in this report are from Thomson Reuters Web of ScienceTM. Web of ScienceTM is a registered trademark of Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.