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Wikipedia, University of Manitoba, Plant Science Department

University of Tartu natural scientists continue among the world's most influential researchers 

The analytics company Clarivate revealed its 2022 list of Highly Cited Researchers, which includes three natural scientists from the University of Tartu. A total of five representatives of Estonian research institutions made it to the list of 6,938 influential researchers.

The Clarivate's list of Highly Cited Researchers includes Associate Professor in Molecular Ecology Mohammad Bahram and Professor in Mycorrhizal Studies Leho Tedersoo, both from the University of Tartu Institute of Ecology and Earth Sciences. Associate Professor of Genomics and Microbiomics Elin Org was also included in the list.

Leho Tedersoo and Mohammad Bahram work together on soil microbiology and biodiversity, developing new molecular characterisation methods. Bahram's research focuses on bacteria and archaea, their genomes and functionality. Tedersoo's focus is more on fungi and the aspects of global biogeography. In their work, they study the impact of climate change, land use change and natural processes on soil organisms. They identify how soil resources can be used sustainably in climate change, and propose environmentally sound solutions for land use change and biodiversity enhancement.  

Tedersoo and Bahram have also published scientific articles on the global distribution and function of soil microbes in Nature and Science. Both University of Tartu researchers have been included in Clarivate's list in previous years, demonstrating the international importance of their research and their place at the top of global research.

Elin Org, a new addition to the list this year, studies the relationship between the gut microbiome and health. Specifically, she is trying to find out whether the microbiome can be used as a marker for disease prevention or early detection, and what its links with different disease states and drug action might be.

"The citation rate of a scientific article is an important indicator of the global impact of a researcher's work. The more other researchers have cited an article, the broader the impact of the research on the advancement of new knowledge," explains Kalmer Lauk, Analyst of Research and Development at the University of Tartu. 

Clarivate's this year's list included 6,938 of the most influential scientists of the last eleven years (2011–2021). The list is based on data from one of the world's largest scientific databases, the Web of Science, specifically its analytics tool Essential Science Indicators (ESI), which aggregates 1% of the world's most cited publications. ESI groups research publications into 21 fields of research.

However, not all of the most cited publications were analysed for the list. "Only articles whose authors did not represent more than 30 institutions were taken into account. The purpose of such a restriction is to avoid a situation where joint publications by multinational groups (e.g. CERN), which may have hundreds of authors, would throw the overall picture out of balance," explained Lauk. The ESI data were verified and cleansed to prepare the review. Based on the cleansed data, a threshold was set for each field to determine how many researchers from that field would be shortlisted, and the shortlisted researchers were assessed based on the number of their most cited publications.

Compared to last year, the list includes fewer researchers from the University of Tartu. According to Lauk, the reasons for this are probably statistical and difficult to assess. "It could be that a successful year for researchers in terms of citations has been left out of the analysis and new publications have not been able to collect enough citations, or that the field-based thresholds have risen for some reason and it has become more difficult to cross them. Fluctuations in such reviews and indicators are quite common. In addition, there is always the possibility that our researchers' publications simply no longer reach such a high level of impact," said Lauk. 

See Clarivate's Highly Cited Researchers. Other Estonian researchers on the list are Professor of Plant Physiology Academician Ülo Niinemets from the Estonian University of Life Sciences and Adjunct Professor in Marketing Linda Hollebeek from Tallinn University of Technology.

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