Names to be reckoned with

January 26, 2001

Chryssa Kouveliotou, Sergei Odintsov and Mirjam Cvetic may not be household names, but a statistical analysis has shown them to be among the most influential and well-connected scientists in the world.

Mark Newman, an expert at the Santa Fe Institute in the United States, has drawn on computer databases of scientific papers in physics, biomedical research and computer science published in 1995-99 to reveal new aspects of the networks of scientific collaboration.

His analysis is to be published in Physical Review .

The study showed that the average number of papers published per author over the five-year period was in the range of three to six.

High-energy physicists averaged 11.6 papers. The average number of authors per paper in the discipline, which is characterised by a propensity for massive collaborations, was 8.96. The highest number of authors for a single paper was 1,681.

Newman's analysis added together researchers with the same name, resulting in T. Suzuki's being biomedicine's most prolific scientist, with 1,697 papers. High-energy physics was dominated by G. Wolf, a composite that included Cern scientists Gunter, Gustavo and Georg Wolf.

The most published physicist was Saharon Shelah, visitor at Rutgers University. In November, the 753rd paper of his career was printed. Aver Bestavros, a networking expert at Boston University, topped the computer science list.

Newman studied degrees of separation between physicists by analysing webs of co-authors.

To find the most influential, he allotted each scientist points for the number of times his or her name formed a link in the shortest path of co-authored papers between two other scientists.

This put Chryssa Kouveliotou (Universities Space Research Association) top in astrophysics, Allan MacDonald (Indiana University) top in condensed matter and Sergei Odintsov (Valle University, Colombia) top in theoretical high-energy.

Newman then produced weighted collaborative networks that took into consideration the relative strength of links. This made Sir Martin Rees (Cambridge University) the best connected astrophysicist, Matthew Fisher (University of California, Santa Barbara) top in condensed matter and Cvetic (Pennsylvania University) top in theoretical high-energy physics.

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