Ranks for Nature and Science by citation impact

April 14, 2011

That Nature and Science are influential journals is not news, but the extent of their influence across almost all fields of scientific research may be.

The table above lists the ranks for both journals according to citations per paper, or citation impact, in those fields in which they published 50 or more papers during the period 2000 to 2010. In all fields listed, either Nature or Science frequently took the top spot, and both in all cases managed a rank of fourth or higher. Such perform­ance is all the more remarkable given that review journals were not excluded from the analysis, and such journals benefit in terms of citation-impact measures by fielding types of article that, on average, are more cited than ordinary research papers.

All in all, the two journals are remarkably similar. During the period measured, Nature published 10,974 articles and reviews, whereas Science published 9,728 articles and reviews (Essential Science Indicators features publication and citation data on articles and reviews only). Of Nature's output, 3,850 items achieved highly cited status, meaning that for their field and year the papers ranked in the top 1 per cent by total citations. Science's number of highly cited papers was 3,562. The percentages of their output classified as highly cited, therefore, were 35.08 per cent and 36.62 per cent respectively. Essential Science Indicators currently lists 98,912 highly cited papers, so Nature produced 3.89 per cent and Science produced 3.60 per cent of the world’s most influential articles in the past 11 years. That two (relatively thin) journals can claim 7.49 per cent of all highly cited papers is indeed noteworthy.

If one were forced to name the winner among the two journals in this photo-finish race, considering the ranks each earned, it would be Nature by a nose.

To classify papers in these and other multidisciplinary journals into fields, Essential Science Indicators employs an algorithm that examines the journals that cite a paper and the journals that a paper cites. For example, if the majority of the citations to a paper published in a multidisciplinary journal come from neuro­science journals and the majority of the cited references in the paper are to neuroscience journals, the paper will be assigned to neuroscience (see http://sciencewatch.com/about/met/classpapmultijour/). Using this method, approximately 95 per cent of papers in Nature and Science can be assigned to specific fields.

For more information, see http://science.thomsonreuters.com/products/esi

Ranks for %3Ci%3ENature%3C/i%3E and %3Ci%3EScience%3C/i%3E by citation impact
Data provided by Thomson Reuters from its Essential Science Indicators, 2000-10
FieldNature rankNature papersCitation impactScience rankScience papersCitation impact
Clinical medicine1898262.362581258.02
Materials science365157.921121180.
Molecular biology21,743146.0031,339144.97
Plant/animal science3625106.052550109.46
Psychiatry/ psychology36180.2819591.06
Social sciences16550.6328035.42

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