Of Nobel class: a citation perspective on high impact research authors

Theor Med. 1992 Jun;13(2):117-35. doi: 10.1007/BF02163625.


The purpose of this paper was to determine if quantitative rankings of highly cited research authors confirm Nobel prize awards. Six studies covering different time periods and author sample sizes were reviewed. The number of Nobel laureates at the time each study was published was tabulated, as was the number of high impact authors who later became laureates. The Nobelists and laureates-to-be were also compared with non-Nobelists to see if they differed in terms of impact and productivity. The results indicate that high rankings by citation frequency identify researchers of Nobel class--that is, a small set of authors that includes a high proportion of actual Nobelists and laureates-to-be. Also, the average impact (citations per author) of Nobelists and laureates-to-be is sufficiently high to distinguish them from non-Nobelists in these rankings. In conclusion, a simple, quantitative, and objective algorithm based on citation data can effectively corroborate--and even forecast--a complex, qualitative, and subjective selection process based on human judgement.

MeSH terms

  • Abstracting and Indexing / statistics & numerical data*
  • Bibliometrics*
  • Diffusion of Innovation*
  • Efficiency
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Humans
  • Medicine / statistics & numerical data
  • Nobel Prize*
  • Publishing / statistics & numerical data
  • Research / standards
  • Research / statistics & numerical data*
  • Specialization