Germany and England form the head-to-head lead in
European cancer research, a discipline which is widely diverse and, therefore, attracts enormous amounts of citations.
ot long ago, a certain Professor Emeritus was asked what exactly had been achieved by the enormous input and effort that had gone into cancer research in the last decades. Of course, the inquirer alluded to the fact that up until that day really satisfactory, not to say successful, cancer treatments were, nevertheless, still far out of reach. The old professor, however, just smiled and replied, “Everything we can do today in biomedical research we can do largely due to cancer research. All those wonderful techniques as well as all those fantastic fundamental insights into cell and molecular biology, immunology, virology and many other biomedical fields – do you think we would have really ‘made’ them within the same short time if we hadn’t put so much money, brains and fingers into the ‘battle against cancer’? No way at all! Thus, there has already been a tremendous lot of achievement due to the decade-long commitment to cancer research – even if we are still waiting for really potent cancer cures.”
The global fight against the widely perceived “disease no. 1” as the main catalyst for basic research in a whole number of biomedical disciplines, so to speak. Without doubt, there’s some truth about this notion, which is also reflected by the fact that, vice versa, many researchers in their different biomedical fields still maintain some more or less close ties to the various aspects of cancer with their projects. (Even if evil tongues might now insist that the main motivation for this is based on presumably better funding opportunities for “cancer-related” research).
Be it as it may, clear fact is that one can actually see quite a number of branches from various disciplines creeping from all sides under the gigantic roof of “cancer research”: oncology and haematology, certainly, but also pathology, molecular and cell biology, biochemistry, immunology, radiology, epidemiology, toxicology... The consequence being that you will inevitably encounter a couple of problems when performing a publication analysis of “cancer researchers”. While there is hardly any trouble with comparing the publication outputs of whole countries in cancer
Colour-enhanced scanning electron microscope (SEM) image of prostate cancer cells
research (tables, next page), the analogous comparison of individual researchers is yet another story (table, page 42). The reason being that publication and citation culture as well as the requirements for a “typical” paper vary largely between, for example, an epidemiologist, a molecular biologist and a clinical oncologist.
That means, of course, that at least in the case of the “mostcited heads” in European cancer research the well-known apples and oranges problem is perhaps more profound than in many other disciplines. Hence, be sure to bear that in mind when going over the list of Europe’s 30 most-cited cancer researchers – and don’t take the absolute ranks too much at face value.
Yet another restriction to our publication analysis “cancer research” resulted from the limited possibilities of Thomson Reuters’ database Web of Science, which was used for this analysis. Of course, many of the “top papers” on cancer research are actually published in multidisciplinary journals like Nature, Science or The
Lancet. Nevertheless, we had to restrict the “country” part of the analysis to the 185 expert journals listed in the subject category “Oncology” of Web of Science. The reason is that Web of Science doesn’t provide any sufficiently reliable tools to automatically extract relevant cancer articles from those multidisciplinary journals. Of course, as a result, this way some of the most prominent papers in the field have been…