Five University of Auckland researchers among most highly cited in the world

Five University scientists have been recognised in the Web of Science Group 2019 list of the most Highly Cited Researchers in the world, released on 19 November.

The 2019 Highly Cited Researchers from the University are: Professors Alexei Drummond, Brent Copp, Debbie Hay and Associate Professor Geoffrey Waterhouse, all in the Faculty of Science, and Adjunct Professor Edward Gane, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences.

The highly anticipated list identifies scientists and social scientists who produced multiple papers ranking in the top one percent by citations for their field and year of publication, demonstrating significant research influence among their peers.

Professor Brent Copp (School of Chemical Sciences) has a research focus on the discovery of novel biologically active natural products, looking at their ecological role and also investigating potential uses in biotechnology. His latest work looks at how marine natural products with antimicrobial properties might enhance antibiotics.

Professor Alexei Drummond (School of Biological Sciences) is an evolutionary biologist and Director of the Centre for Computational Evolution. He co-wrote the open source BEAST software, which has become the leading data tool for biologists. He was awarded a James Cook Research Fellowship by the Royal Society in 2019. His research, which combined DNA data and smartphone location to build a picture of the influenza season, significantly improves our understanding of how human epidemics spread.

Professor Debbie Hay (School of Biological Sciences) is a leading researcher on cellular proteins. Her work supports the development of new treatments for migraine, cancer, cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes. She has identified an important pain pathway for migraine, the most common neurological disorder in the world, affecting between 10 and 20 percent of adults worldwide, that creates opportunities for new therapies to help migraine sufferers.

Associate Professor Geoffrey Waterhouse (School of Chemical Sciences) leads the Energy theme for the MacDiarmid Institute and conducts research in advanced materials and nanotechnology. Included in his current work is a project to create a crucial component, the catalyst, for an affordable, rechargeable zinc-air battery. This kind of battery would offer much greater energy storage at a lower cost than lithium-ion batteries, potentially making electric cars more affordable and easier to adopt.

Adjunct Professor Edward Gane (School of Medicine) is the country’s leading researcher on Hepatitis C. His work trialling anti-virals in New Zealand now enables most patients to be cured of the disease. More than 50,000 New Zealanders live with the Hepatitis C virus and up to a quarter of those will develop cirrhosis of the liver, leading to liver cancer or liver failure for up to 5,000 people a year.  The WHO estimates that more than one million people with the disease have now been cured and that global eradication is possible within the next 30 years.

Professor Drummond and Associate Professor Waterhouse are among an even more elite group, two of just 2,492 academics recognised for cross-field performance – those with exceptional broad performance based on high-impact papers across several fields.

University of Auckland Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Jim Metson said that the Highly Cited Researchers List was an august group, and the University was rightfully proud of the international contribution made by its academics.

“These researchers have already gained a great deal of respect for their range of important and far-reaching achievements. They are leaders in their fields. Their work in itself is making a significant impact, but it’s also informing other research very widely across the globe.”

The methodology to determine the who’s who of influential researchers draws on the data and analysis performed by bibliometric experts from the Institute for Scientific Information at the Web of Science Group.

The data is taken from 21 broad research fields within Essential Science Indicators, a component of InCites. The fields are defined by sets of journals and in the case of multidisciplinary journals, such as Nature and Science, by assigning each paper to one of the 21 fields, based on an analysis of the cited references in the papers. This percentile-based selection method removes the citation advantage of older papers, relative to recently published ones, since papers are weighed against others in the same annual cohort.

David Pendlebury, Senior Citation Analyst at the Institute for Scientific Information, said that the Highly Cited Researchers list contributes to the identification of that small fraction of the researcher population that contributes disproportionately to extending the frontiers of knowledge.

“Recognition and support of these exceptional researchers represents an important activity for an institution’s plans for efficient and accelerated advancement.

"These researchers create gains for society, innovation and knowledge that make the world healthier, richer, more sustainable and more secure,” he said.

This year’s list recognises researchers whose citation records position them in the very highest strata of influence and impact, including 23 Nobel laureates, and 57 Clarivate Analytics Citation Laureates – individuals who, through citation analysis, have been identified as researchers ‘of Nobel class’ and potential Nobel Prize recipients.

The key findings for 2019 include:
• The list includes 6,217 Highly Cited Researchers from nearly 60 nations.
• The United States is home to the highest number of Highly Cited Researchers, with 2,737 authors, representing 44 percent of the researchers on the list.
• Mainland China has seen a huge surge, with 636 researchers named Highly Cited, compared with 482 in 2018.
• The list includes 23 Nobel laureates and 57 Citation Laureatesindividuals recognised by the Web of Science Group through citation analysis, who are ‘of Nobel class’ and potential Nobel Prize recipients.

Media contact

Lisa Finucane
DDI 09 923 7698
Mob 021 677 216