Warming Planet, Hot Research

November 2009

The 2009 United Nations Summit on Climate Change, which attracted more than 100 world leaders, including the heads of state of both the United States and China, is only one recent manifestation of the growing international concern over human impact on climate. The political and economic implications of the topic, of course, are vast. Here, Science Watch® confines itself to assessing the body of research.

To examine highly cited research on climate change over the last decade, Science Watch turned to a special extraction of Thomson Reuters-indexed literature, based on such keywords as "global warming," "climate change," "human impact," and other pertinent terms, in journal articles published and cited between 1999 and the spring of 2009. This search produced upwards of 28,000 papers. From this set, Science Watch identified the most-cited institutions, authors, and journals.

Table 1a and table 1b below rank institutions according to two separate measures: first, by total citations, second, by average citations per paper (among those institutions that published at least 100 papers in the climate-change database). Highly cited authors (table 2) and journals (table 3) are also listed.

The most-cited paper in the survey is a 2002 Nature report, "Ecological responses to recent climate change," (G.R. Walther, et al., 416: 389-95, 2002), now cited approximately 1,100 times. The nine co-authors include three names from the list of highly cited scientists: Annette Menzel of the Technical University of Munich, Ove Hoegh-Guldberg of the University of Queensland, and Camille Parmesan of the University of Texas, Austin. Parmesan, in fact, also contributed to another high-visibility Nature report, now approaching 1,000 citations (C. Parmesan, G. Yohe, "A globally coherent fingerprint of climate change impact across natural systems," 421: 37-42, 2003).

Nature also accounts for the survey’s #2 most-cited paper, which tops 1,050 citations: "The genetic legacy of the Quaternary ice ages" ( G. Hewitt, 405: 907-13, 2000). Science, meanwhile, chips in with the third-most-cited paper, which examines broader aspects of assessing how species and ecosystems adapt to human disruption (J.B.C. Jackson, et al., "Historical overfishing and the recent collapse of coastal ecosystems," 293: 629-38, 2001; with just over 1,000 citations). Contributors to this report include featured authors Jeremy B.C. Jackson of UC San Diego, Terry P. Hughes of James Cook University, and John M. Pandolfi of the University of Queensland.

The survey’s most-cited author (and also the contributor to the highest number of papers in this climate-change dataset, with 57) is F. Stuart (Terry) Chapin of the University of Alaska. His top paper, with more than 800 citations, is from Science: "Biodiversity: Global biodiversity scenarios for the year 2100," (O.E. Sala, et al., 287: 1770-4, 2000).

Among institutions, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, based in Boulder, Colorado, registers the highest citation total: more than 11,000 collective cites to 360-plus papers, the most cited of which is a Science paper on climate change and its impact on coral reefs. This paper, now cited more than 450 times, also includes previously mentioned authors Hughes, Jackson, Hoegh-Guldberg, and Pandolfi. (T.P. Hughes, et al., 301: 929-33, 2003).

Among the organizations whose authors contributed to the coral-reef report is the Smithsonian Institution, which emerges at #1 by the measure of impact, or cites per paper, with 136 papers and a per-paper average exceeding 40 (with the above-mentioned blockbuster on historical overfishing providing a healthy boost).

As for journals: the multidisciplinary heavyweights Nature and Science post comparable citation tallies for their climate-themed papers, while Global Change Biology earns top citation honors among specialty journals devoted to climate change and related topics.

For more information and interviews on highly cited research on this subject, ScienceWatch.com looks at the literature on Climate Change (including four Research Front Maps) over the past decade and over the past two years.

Table 1a

Climate Change Research: Institutions, Ranked by Citations

Rank Institution Citations
1 Natl. Ctr. for Atmospheric Res. 11,341
2 NASA 10,731
3 Natl. Oceanic & Atmospheric Admin. 10,609
4 Columbia University 10,600
5 Max Planck Society 9,925
6 Met Office (U.K.) 9,667
7 University of Colorado 9,078
8 University of Oxford 8,622
9 University of East Anglia 8,386
10 University of Washington 8,153
11 University of Alaska 8,098
12 U.S. Geological Survey 7,976
13 Univ. Calif., Berkeley 7,811
14 Pennsylvania State University 6,981
15 Univ. Calif., San Diego 6,951
16 Stanford University 6,907
17 CSIRO (Australia) 6,665
18 Univ. Calif., Santa Barbara 6,417
19 University of Wisconsin 6,271
20 Colorado State University 5,946
21 Chinese Academy of Sciences 5,612
22 Princeton University 5,519
23 Smithsonian Institution 5,512
24 Oregon State University 5,346
25 Duke University 5,345
SOURCE: Thomson Reuters Web of Science®

Table 1b

Climate Change Research: Institutions, Ranked by Citation Impact

Rank Institution
(≥100 papers)
1 Smithsonian Institution 40.53
2 James Cook University 33.93
3 NASA 32.32
4 Natl. Ctr. for Atmospheric Res. 31.33
5 Rutgers University 30.99
6 Met Office (U.K.) 30.88
7 Univ. Calif., Santa Barbara 30.70
8 Stanford University 30.03
9 Livermore National Lab 29.21
10 Univ. Calif., San Diego 29.08
11 Duke University 28.28
12 Max Planck Society 27.88
13 Pennsylvania State University 27.59
14 University of Miami 27.38
15 Oak Ridge National Lab 27.00
16 University of East Anglia 26.62
17 Princeton University 26.53
18 Columbia University 25.73
19 Woods Hole Oceanographic Inst. 25.72
20 University of Oxford 25.66
21 Natl. Oceanic & Atmospheric Admin. 25.26
22 Stockholm University 24.70
23 Univ. Calif., Santa Cruz 24.67
24 University of New Hampshire 24.65
25 Univ. Calif., Davis 24.53
SOURCE: Thomson Reuters Web of Science®

Table 2

Highly Cited Authors in Climate Change Research, 1999-2009, Ranked by Total Citations

Rank Name Institution Department/
Papers Citations
1 F. Stuart Chapin University of Alaska Arctic Biology 57 3,365
2 Camille Parmesan Univ. Texas, Austin Integrative Biology 7 2,794
3 Ove Hoegh-Guldberg University of Queensland Marine Science 30 2,612
4 Phil Jones University of East Anglia Climatic Research 39 2,480
5 A. Townsend Peterson University of Kansas Biodiversity/Ecology 45 2,341
6 Peter M. Cox University of Exeter Climate System Dynamics 31 2,176
7 I. Colin Prentice University of Bristol Plant Ecology 36 2,172
8 Terry P. Hughes James Cook University Coral Reef Ecology 10 2,144
9 Antoine Guisan University of Lausanne Ecology/Evolution 26 2,040
10 Mike Hulme University of East Anglia Climate Change 32 2,024
11 Richard A. Betts Met Office/Hadley Centre Climate Impacts 25 2,000
12 Wilfried Thuiller CNRS, Grenoble Ecology/Biostatistics 48 1,894
13 Chris D. Thomas University of York Ecology/Evolution 28 1,884
14 Eric Post Pennsylvania State University Ecological Dynamics 22 1,852
15 Martin T. Sykes Lund University Physical Geography 33 1,839
16 Gerald A. Meehl NCAR Climate and Global Dynamics 39 1,778
17 Jeremy B.C. Jackson Univ. Calif., San Diego Oceanography 5 1,744
18 John M. Pandolfi University of Queensland Paleoecology 5 1714
19 Mark New University of Oxford Climate Science 14 1,711
20 Annette Menzel Tech. University of Munich Ecoclimatology 28 1,691
21 Myles R. Allen University of Oxford Climate Dynamics 48 1,686
22 Andrew J. Weaver University of Victoria Earth/Ocean Science 43 1,644
23 Peter A. Stott Met Office/Hadley Centre Climate Monitoring 46 1,614
24 Stephen Sitch University of Leeds Earth Systems 27 1,576
25 John F.B. Mitchell Met Office/Hadley Centre Climate Science 27 1,538
SOURCE: Thomson Reuters Web of Science®

Table 3

Most-Cited Journals in Climate Change Research, 1999-2009, Ranked by citations to papers published and cited

Rank Institution Citations
1 Nature 22,952
2 Science 21,791
3 Global Change Biology 12,013
4 Journal of Climate 11,778
5 Geophysical Research Letters 10,500
6 J. Geophysical Research Atmospheres 9,826
7 Climatic Change 8,423
8 PNAS 7,484
9 Climate Dynamics 5,761
10 Quaternary Science Reviews 5,470
11 Ecological Applications 4,252
12 Ecology 4,041
13 Int. J. Climatology 3,650
14 Earth & Planetary Science Letters 3,554
15 Ecological Modelling 3,482
SOURCE: Thomson Reuters Web of Science®

Christopher King is the Editor of the Science Watch® Newsletter, Thomson Reuters.


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.