The 10 most popular academic papers of 2014

Alternative metrics reveal the papers receiving the most online attention

December 9, 2014

Source: Bloomua/

When Facebook teamed up with researchers from two US universities to conduct a psychological experiment on nearly 700,000 unknowing users, it was bound to attract attention.

Perhaps, then, it is no surprise that the resulting paper, “Experimental Evidence Of Massive-Scale Emotional Contagion Through Social Networks”, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, has been declared the most popular online paper of the year.

This is according to Altmetric LLP, 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 articles making the top 10 include an investigation into whether James Bond’s drinks were shaken because of alcohol-induced tremor, and the revelation that dogs are sensitive to small variations of the Earth’s magnetic field.

“We continue to see a significant increase in the volume of research being shared and discussed online, and in the audiences engaging in those conversations,” said Euan Adie, founder of Altmetric.

“It’s no surprise to see that the most shared articles of the year heavily mirror the media agenda, but interesting to note that on occasion online communities are drawing attention to studies that have not received a significant amount of mainstream coverage.”

The top 10 most popular academic papers of 2014

  1. Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks
  2. Variation in Melanism and Female Preference in Proximate but Ecologically Distinct Environments
  3. Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota
  4. Stimulus-triggered fate conversion of somatic cells into pluripotency
  5. Dogs are sensitive to small variations of the Earth’s magnetic field
  6. Christmas 2013: Research: The survival time of chocolates on hospital wards: covert observational study
  7. Epidemiological modeling of online social network dynamics
  8. Searching the Internet for evidence of time travelers
  9. Conscious Brain-to-Brain Communication in Humans Using Non-Invasive Technologies
  10. Were James Bond’s drinks shaken because of alcohol-induced tremor?

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

Times Higher Education free 30-day trial

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford will host a homeopathy conference next month

Charity says Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford is ‘naive’ to hire out its premises for event

Laurel and Hardy sawing a plank of wood

Working with other academics can be tricky so follow some key rules, say Kevin O'Gorman and Robert MacIntosh

Woman pulling blind down over an eye
Liz Morrish reflects on why she chose to tackle the failings of the neoliberal academy from the outside
White cliffs of Dover

From Australia to Singapore, David Matthews and John Elmes weigh the pros and cons of likely destinations

Michael Parkin illustration (9 March 2017)

Cramming study into the shortest possible time will impoverish the student experience and drive an even greater wedge between research-enabled permanent staff and the growing underclass of flexible teaching staff, says Tom Cutterham