Three academics from the University of Cape Town (UCT) – Professor Estelle (Vicki) Lambert, Professor Dan Stein, and Associate Professor Darren Martin – have been recognised as some of the most frequently cited scholars globally, as per the Highly Cited Researchers 2023 list released by Clarivate, a data analytics company.
This list not only honours individual achievements but also underscores the critical role of collaborative and cross-disciplinary research in addressing the complex challenges of our time. Highly regarded by the global scientific community, it spotlights those who have significantly influenced their respective fields through their scholarly contributions, and embodies the pinnacle of research achievement. The prolific contributions of these researchers, recognised globally through citations by peers, are a testament to their exceptional impact in the world of science and social sciences.
“The recognition of Professor Estelle (Vicki) Lambert, Professor Dan Stein, and Associate Professor Darren Martin in the Highly Cited Researchers 2023 list not only highlights their excellence but also illuminates UCT's position as a powerhouse of innovative and impactful research. Their inclusion underscores UCT's commitment to fostering groundbreaking scholarship that addresses pressing global issues with depth, breadth, and a collaborative spirit,” said Professor Jeff Murugan, the acting deputy vice-chancellor for Research and Internationalisation.
To be considered for inclusion, a researcher must have authored multiple papers that rank in the top 1% by citations for their field and publication year in the Web of Science over the past decade. This ensures that only those whose work has been repeatedly recognised and referenced by peers is acknowledged.
The rigorous selection process is multifaceted and not solely dependent on citation activity. Initially, a preliminary list is generated based on citation metrics. This list is then meticulously refined using qualitative analysis and represents a telling evaluation of the global influence and contribution of the three UCT academics.
Professor Estelle (Vicki) Lambert – Faculty of Health Sciences
Her research explores the relationship between physical activity and health, the interplay of the environment with physical activity, and the connections between obesity, diet and food security. Professor Lambert’s work, viewed through a Global South and equity lens, also encompasses community-based interventions and citizen science, spanning all life stages. It delves into the prevalence and burden of disease, the underlying causes of health effects and benefits, and the factors influencing physical activity and obesity throughout one’s life. Recently, her focus has expanded to include environmental factors and behaviour change interventions.
Professor Dan Stein – Faculty of Health Sciences
Professor Stein’s research is focused on anxiety and related disorders, including obsessive-compulsive spectrum conditions and post-traumatic stress disorder. His research ranges from basic neuroscience through clinical research and on to public mental health. Stein’s approach is integrative, moving between laboratory neuroscience, clinical research and public health. He has influenced the field by collaboration across South Africa, Africa, and the world. He is also a well-regarded mentor with mentees who have worked on a range of topics relevant to the country and the continent. They now occupy leadership positions in various fields. Stein is also recognised as a prolific publisher of his research.
Associate Professor Darren Martin – Faculty of Health Sciences
A key area of Associate Professor Martin’s research is the study of genetic recombination in virus evolution. This includes understanding how viruses evolve to become more pathogenic, develop drug resistance and evade vaccines. The work of his team combines computer-based analysis with practical lab experiments to explore how viruses maintain their genetic integrity while adapting and evolving. This research is crucial in designing vaccines and drugs that are more effective against rapidly evolving viruses. Martin’s contributions are not just in research, but also in nurturing future scientists through high-quality bioinformatics education and training.
Leading the field
The 2023 list distinguishes 7 125 designations exceeding the number of individual recipients (6 849) as some researchers are recognised in more than one Essential Science Indicators (ESI) field of research. This figure underscores the interdisciplinary influence of many researchers whose work transcends a single academic domain.
The distribution of these highly cited researchers is global, with individuals hailing from various countries and representing numerous institutions, further emphasising the international and collaborative nature of high-impact scientific research. Clarivate’s analysis provides an in-depth look at the researchers, their specific fields, institutions and home regions, offering insights into the geographical and institutional spread of top-tier research talent.
The data analytics company’s approach to identifying these researchers is comprehensive and multi-dimensional. Each year, the Institute for Scientific Information compiles a new list of preliminary candidates based on exceptional performance in one or more ESI fields. This process is not just a quantitative assessment of citation counts; it includes qualitative evaluations and expert judgment to ensure that only the most influential researchers are recognised.
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