These are the 10 most popular academic papers of 2017

Alternative metrics find that research on dieting, PhD mental health and female doctors attracted the most online attention this year

December 12, 2017
sugar, carbs, diet, food, sweet
Source: iStock

An article debunking the myths of low-fat dieting is the most popular scientific research paper of 2017. 

This article, suggesting that it is in fact too much sugar and too many carbohydrates that will make you gain weight, has topped the annual Altmetric Top 100 papers of 2017, which names the most popular scientific studies of the year based on online activity. 

The list is compiled by London company Altmetric, which analyses the online performance of scholarly literature. The term “alt-metrics” is short for “alternative metrics”, and refers to the practice of rating papers on things like social media mentions and online citations, rather than simply looking at citations in other journals. 

To compile the list, Altmetric looked at a range of measures including mainstream news media references, Wikipedia citations, social media mentions and performance in scholarly spaces such as post-publication peer-review forums and patient advocacy groups. This image shows how the top-rating article performed on this range of alternative measures.




Other popular papers this year include studies looking at a new genome editing procedure, and how being treated by a female physician may save your life. Of the top 100, 53 were in the field of medical science. Biological science (17), earth and environmental science (nine), and studies in human society (eight) were the next most popular. 

“While the top 100 is intended for a broader audience, the data behind it has a serious purpose – to make viewing and analysing the online conversation surrounding research outputs easy for researchers, institutions, publishers and funders alike,” said Euan Adie, founder of Altmetric. 

“In so doing, we aim to enable discussions around the full impacts of research, beyond traditional impact scores.” 

The top 10 most popular scientific research papers of 2017

  The top 10 most popular scientific research papers of 2017
1 Associations of fats and carbohydrate intake with cardiovascular disease and mortality in 18 countries from five continents (PURE): a prospective cohort study
2 Work organization and mental health problems in PhD students
3 Comparison of Hospital Mortality and Readmission Rates for Medicare Patients Treated by Male vs Female Physicians
4 Correction of a pathogenic gene mutation in human embryos
5 Gender stereotypes about intellectual ability emerge early and influence children’s interests
6 More than 75 percent decline over 27 years in total flying insect biomass in protected areas
7 Worldwide trends in body-mass index, underweight, overweight, and obesity from 1975 to 2016: a pooled analysis of 2416 population-based measurement studies in 128·9 million children, adolescents, and adults
8 A Feathered Dinosaur Tail with Primitive Plumage Trapped in Mid-Cretaceous Amber
9 Efficacy and effectiveness of an rVSV-vectored vaccine in preventing Ebola virus disease: final results from the Guinea ring vaccination, open-label, cluster-randomised trial (Ebola Ça Suffit!)
10 An extra-uterine system to physiologically support the extreme premature lamb

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Reader's comments (2)

This article would have been better and more accurately titled as the "top 10 most popular scientific research papers of 2017". As the article demonstrates, these altmetrics are limited and only "work" in the context of STEM and even there are problematic. It would also be interesting to see how many of the top 10 are available as Open Access and if this has been a causal factor in their popularity?
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