, Volume 94, Issue 2, pp 469–480 | Cite as

Characterizing a scientific elite (B): publication and citation patterns of the most highly cited scientists in environmental science and ecology

  • John N. Parker
  • Stefano Allesina
  • Christopher J. Lortie


Science is principally driven by the efforts of a vanishingly small fraction of researchers publishing the majority of scientific research and garnering the majority of citations. Despite this well-established trend, knowledge of exactly how many articles these researchers publish, how highly they are cited, and how they achieved their distinctive accomplishments is meager. This article examines the publication and citation patterns of the world’s most highly cited environmental scientists and ecologists, inquiring into their levels of scientific productivity and visibility, examining relationships between scientific productivity and quality within their research programs, and considering how different publication strategies contribute to these distinctive successes. Generally speaking, highly cited researchers are also highly productive, publishing on average well over 100 articles each. Furthermore, articles published by this group are more highly cited on average than articles published in premier generalist journal like Nature and Science, and their citation to publication ratios are more equitably distributed than is typical. Research specialization and primacy of authorship are important determinants of citation frequency, while geographic differences and collaborative propensity matter less. The article closes with a set of suggestions for those wishing to increase the use of their research by the scientific community.


Citations Scientific elite Scientific productivity Collaboration Ecology Environmental science Specialization 


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Copyright information

© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, Hungary 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • John N. Parker
    • 1
  • Stefano Allesina
    • 2
  • Christopher J. Lortie
    • 3
  1. 1.Barrett, The Honors CollegeArizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  2. 2.University of ChicagoChicagoUSA
  3. 3.York UniversityTorontoCanada

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