Three University of Cape Town (UCT) researchers have been included in the Highly Cited Researchers (HCR) list for 2020. They are HCR veterans Emeritus Professor William Bond and Professor Dan Stein, as well as Professor Estelle (Vicki) Lambert who features on the list for the first time this year.
Compiled by Clarivate Analytics, the HCR list recognises scientists and social scientists who demonstrate significant and broad influence through the publication of multiple papers frequently cited by their peers over the course of a decade.
This year, the papers surveyed were those published and cited in one or more of the 21 fields included in Clarivate’s Essential Sciences Indicator (ESI) between 2009 and 2019. Researchers included on the list have published papers that rank in the top 1% of total citations in the world in one or more ESI fields for the period of survey.
As many as 6 389 researchers from some 60 different countries/regions were included on the list. Among these, 3 896 received a high frequency of citations in a specific field, while 2 493 displayed exceptional performance across various disciplines.
Both Bond and Lambert feature among the latter, while Stein has been recognised for his influence in the field of psychiatry and psychology.
Professor Sue Harrison, UCT’s deputy vice-chancellor for research and internationalisation, congratulated the three researchers, saying, “It’s always deeply gratifying to be recognised for your work in this manner, but it is even more significant that our researchers are being cited as key contributors to knowledge that will drive meaningful projects forward throughout the world. My sincerest congratulations to professors Bond, Stein and Lambert.”
Almost like winning the World Cup
When asked what it feels like to be featured on the HCR list once again this year, the Department of Biological Sciences’ Bond humorously responds, “Well, not quite as exhilarating as winning the Rugby World Cup but it has its similarities.”
“You're out in the big wide world and, although we may seem on the fringes of science here in South Africa, those citations mean you know you're being heard and influencing scientific knowledge elsewhere,” he continues.
Bond’s research focuses on the processes that most strongly influence changes in vegetation. These include fire, climate extremes, habitat fragmentation and vertebrate herbivory. For instance, throughout much of Africa, habitats that would have been perfect for forests are instead covered by grasses, or in the case of South Africa, fynbos.
“Plants can evolve to become more edible or burn more easily... Life can change its own growing conditions.”
“I think early scientists failed to understand the enormous importance of large vertebrates consuming plants in shaping vegetation,” he says.
Similarly, Bond adds, not unlike generalist plant eaters munching their way through ecosystems, fire is an ancient process and catalyst of vegetative change.
“Together fire and animals have changed much of the world, opening up forests and creating space for sun-loving creatures,” he explains. “Plants can evolve to become more edible or burn more easily. So, life can change its own growing conditions.”
Much of Bond’s research has been focused on this global puzzle of what he calls ‘missing forests’, which is reflected in his top 10 most cited papers.
Collaboration is key
Stein, head of the Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health and recipient of a lifetime achievement award at the 14th World Congress of Biological Psychiatry in 2019, points out the collaborative nature of his work, which focuses on the psychobiology and management of anxiety and related disorders.
“My most highly cited papers are invariably a result of large collaborative efforts,” he says. “I feel privileged to be part of a number of productive projects and am mindful of the fact that these citations reflect the work of my colleagues and students.”
Notably, Stein also highlights the integrative, cross-disciplinary nature of psychiatry as one of the most enjoyable facets of his career.
“My most highly cited papers are invariably a result of large collaborative efforts.”
“My work ranges from neuroscience through clinical research and on to public health studies, and increasingly work in each of these areas requires collaboration,” he says. “Some of my most highly cited papers include work from ENIGMA (Enhancing Neuroimaging Genetics through Meta-analysis), a large brain imaging collaboration, from collaborative work on the DSM-5 and ICD-11 classifications of mental disorders, and from WMHS (World Mental Health Surveys), a large psychiatric epidemiology collaboration.”
Encouraging movement for public health
Included on the list for the first time this year, Lambert’s research largely focuses on the role of physical activity for public health purposes in the Global South with an emphasis on equity and environmental justice. Her work also includes research on the “wicked problem” of food insecurity and obesity, particularly in underserved communities.
Lambert is the director of the Research Centre on Health through Physical Activity, Lifestyle and Sport (HPALS), within the Division of Exercise Science and Sports Medicine (ESSM), in the Department of Human Biology. She recently served on the World Health Organization (WHO) 2020 Guidelines Development Group for Global Recommendations on Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour.
Prof Lambert led a consortium of more than 40 academics and implementation partners.
When asked about the highlights of her career, Lambert commented that she was “privileged to work with incredible teams of passionate, committed researchers all over the world” and that her best outputs included two Lancet papers, as part of the 2012 and 2016 Lancet series on physical activity for health. However, Lambert indicated that the work of which she is most proud was a recent invited commentary from the British Journal of Sports Medicine, released last month, on the novel construct of ‘physical activity security’.
This year, Lambert led a consortium of more than 40 academics and implementation partners, that has produced a series of policy briefs on Physical Activity for Health in Africa, during COVID and Beyond. This work is ongoing.
Read more about the HCR List.
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