The 10 most popular academic papers of 2015

Alternative metrics reveal the research that received the most online attention

December 14, 2015

A study detailing the discovery of a new antibiotic that inhibits the growth of drug-resistant bacteria has topped a list of the most popular online papers of the year.

The article, “A new antibiotic kills pathogens without detectable resistance”, published in Nature in January 2015, took pole position in a top 100 list compiled by Altmetric, a London start-up that tracks and analyses the online activity around scholarly literature. The term “altmetrics” describes the practice of rating papers using “alternative metrics”, such as mentions on social media networking sites, rather than, for example, citations in other journals.

Other research that caught the public’s attention in 2015 include an article highlighting an association between religion and selfishness in children (10th) and an investigation that revealed that there are more than five trillion plastic pieces, weighing more than 250,000 tons, afloat in our oceans (sixth).

The top 10 most popular academic papers of 2015

  1. A new antibiotic kills pathogens without detectable resistance
  2. Autism occurrence by MMR vaccine status among US children with older siblings with and without autism
  3. Accelerated modern human-induced species losses: entering the sixth mass extinction
  4. Cancer etiology. Variation in cancer risk among tissues can be explained by the number of stem cell divisions
  5. Estimating the reproducibility of psychological science
  6. Plastic pollution in the world’s oceans: more than 5 trillion plastic pieces weighing over 250,000 tons afloat at sea
  7. The geographical distribution of fossil fuels unused when limiting global warming to 2°C
  8. An efficiency comparison of document preparation systems used in academic research and development
  9. A neural algorithm of artistic style
  10. The negative association between religiousness and children’s altruism across the world

The full top 100 list, along with more information about the methodology, is available at

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