Scientific research – what’s hot and what’s not?

Times Higher Education has used citation data and analytics to identify the hottest topics in contemporary science.

The number of citations can be used to predict Nobel Prizes further down the line.  However, this article in the THE focuses on articles published in the last two years that are among the top 1% of citations to identify current hot topics.

Using the concept of research fronts, the article focuses on four broad research categories:

  • Biology and Medicine
  • Energy and Light
  • Environment and Ecology
  • Next Generation Electronics

Next Generation Electronics

Researchers are exploring new materials – and looking at user behaviour – to find breakthroughs in everything from faster processes to flexible screens and quantum computing.  One of the most cited recent papers comes from ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich) where researchers are investigating ‘quantum dots’.  Research into so called 2D materials forms much of the most cited papers in this research front.

Biology and Medicine

Headline grabbing viruses are the subject of two of the most cited articles in this research front.

Researchers at the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston used their expertise in researching HIV vaccines to work on the Zika virus.  One of the vaccines they developed has now progressed to Phase 1 clinical trials.

The study of the Ebola virus was also a very active area of research for medical scientists.

Work into how proteins in cells can be targeted to fight cancer has been conducted by Stefan Knapp, professor of pharmaceutical chemistry at Goethe University Frankfurt. The research came out of a large open collaborative consortium of eight pharmaceutical companies and six universities.

The full article is available here.

Using citation data

Web of Science citation data and Essential Science IndicatorsSM insights from Clarivate Analytics were used to develop an objective view of contemporary research.  David Pendlebury, senior citation analyst at Clarivate Analytics, was quoted:

The citation network linking one paper to another reveals the organic structure and dynamics of specialty areas…  We call these specialty areas 'research fronts' because they represent active, leading-edge activity. And since citations reflect the expert judgments of researchers themselves, the citation network is a reliable guide to the true nature of current research, not a depiction employing traditional field or subject categories that lag behind what is really happening today.

Constructing research fronts starts with identifying highly cited papers (those cited in the top 1% for their age and area) over the most recent five years. It is then determined how often these papers have been jointly cited (co-citation). High co-citation frequency suggests a strong socio-cognitive association between the content of two papers. Repetitive analysis of co-citation patterns yields clusters of related research reports. These clusters, or research fronts, are provided in the Clarivate Analytics Essential Science Indicators database. About 8,000 appear every two months in Essential Science Indicators.

Source: Clarivate.