Science - February 5, 2004

Wageningen at the top of the world

Wageningen UR is one of the five most cited research institutes in the world in the subject-fields of agricultural sciences, environment and ecology, and plant- and animal-sciences. A look at the data from ISI, world leader in the field of citation analysis, puts Wageningen firmly among the world leaders.

Citation analysis is the most commonly used method to compare the performance of scientists. The world leader in this activity is the American company Thomson, with its ISI Web of Knowledge, which is used for citation analysis and provides the basic data for many research evaluations. ISI registers citations of articles in all leading international scientific journals on a quarterly basis.

The Wageningen UR library recently started to subscribe to a new service provided by Thomson, which enables researchers to determine their own international standing themselves. The ‘essential science indicators’ make it possible for scientists to see quickly whether they belong to the top of their field. It is also possible to compare institutes and countries with each other. ISI lists total numbers of citations for the past ten years, and ranks research institutes on the basis of the results.

The hit lists that emerge provide good news for Wageningen UR. According to ISI, Wageningen UR belongs to the world top in three areas. It comes third in the areas of ‘environment and ecology’ and ‘agricultural sciences’. In the field of ‘plant- and animal sciences’ Wageningen UR earns a respectable fifth place. With these placings Wageningen UR is the only Dutch institute to earn a place at the top. The ISI scores for 22 different areas of science and technology, and no other Dutch university is found in the top twenty of the listings.

Are Wageningen researchers so much better than their colleagues at other universities? No, at least not according to the ISI scores. In the last ten years Wageningen scientists have written 230 articles that that belong to the one percent of most cited in their subject area. Not bad, but not as good as Utrecht and Amsterdam, who came in with scores of 343 and 338 articles respectively. The difference is that the latter two universities have their researchers spread over many more subject areas, while Wageningen UR confines itself to the fields of food, agriculture and environment.

Scores rise

It is also thanks to the alertness of the library here that Wageningen scores so well. Last year the librarians realised that not all citations of Wageningen researchers were listed under Wageningen by ISI. This is partly due to the complex organisational structure; it is not always clear that certain research institutes are a part of Wageningen UR. The library got in touch with ISI about this, and as a result Wageningen’s position rose from 14th place for plant- and animal-sciences to 5th place. In agricultural sciences Wageningen went from 8th to third place, and for environment and ecology from 12th to third place.

In the international arena Wageningen competes most with American universities and institutes. The research institutes of the US Department of Agriculture are at the top of all three subject-areas where Wageningen scores well. In Europe it is INRA, the French department of agriculture research institute, that shines, especially in the traditional agriculture subjects. In the fields of agriculture and plant- and animal-sciences European competition comes from the Swedish agricultural university in Uppsala and the universities of Reading and Bristol in England. Imperial College London ranks eighteenth for environment and ecology.

With the ISI ‘essential science indicators’ it is also possible to see which Wageningen scientists belong to the top one percent of the most cited scientists in their subject area. The lists can be accessed through the ‘shortcuts’ button on the Wageningen UR library website.

ISI Web of Knowledge: www.isinet.com
Intranet: library.wur.nl/desktop/direct (ISI Web of Knowledge)


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