Crowding at the Top of U.K. Research

LONDON--=The Universities of Oxford and Cambridge still have gold-plated reputations in British science, but they do not have a monopoly on the hot papers, according to figures to be published in January by the Philadelphia-based Institute for Scientific Information (ISI).

ISI analyzed statistics on published papers and their citations for more than 100 U.K. universities over the period 1991 to '95. The result is a table of the universities' "citation impact"--total number of citations divided by the number of papers published--in 21 fields of research. This type of analysis can let small departments shine, because if a department's publications total is small, one or two highly cited papers can have a big impact.

Oxford or Cambridge generated the most papers in 13 of the 21 fields surveyed, and Oxford achieved the highest impact in four. But London's Imperial College and the Universities of Glasgow, Durham, and Dundee were not far behind, all topping two fields, while Cambridge managed only one. "This does come as a surprise," says Edward Corrigan, head of the University of Durham's Department of Mathematical Science, which, with 36 active research staff, was tops in math. "But it is possible to pick isolated papers with several hundred citations."

David Finnegan, head of the University of Edinburgh's Institute of Cell and Molecular Biology, which came out on top in microbiology, was bemused. "I'd say we were stronger in genetics," he says, adding "These lists are a bit hard to fathom."

U.K. Universities:Top-ranked departments, 1991-95
Ranked by citations per paper (in parentheses)

Field 1 2 3
Physics U. Glasgow (6.85) U. Lancaster (6.77) U. Sussex (5.87)
Chemistry U. Cambridge (6.35) U. Sussex (6.17) U. Durham (4.97)
Materials Science U. Hull (3.90) Q. Mary & Westfield (2.94) U. Cambridge (2.86)
Engineering U. Glasgow (2.90) U. Oxford (2.61) U. Southhampton (2.52)
Geosciences Open U. (5.21) U. Oxford (4.83) U. East Anglia (4.74)
Astrophysics U. Durham (11.43) U. Oxford (10.09) U. Leicester (9.20)
Computer Science City U. of London (1.86) UMIST (1.67) U. Warwick (1.50)
Mathematics U. Durham (3.38) U. Bristol (3.21) Imperial College (2.54)
Ecology/Environmental U. Oxford (3.84) Imperial College (3.70) U. Lancaster (3.53)
Agricultural Sciences U. Strathclyde (2.64) U. Aberdeen (2.58) U. East Anglia (2.45)
Plant & Animal Sciences U. Leicester (6.70) U. East Anglia (5.66) U. Lancaster (4.49)
Clinical Medicine Imperial College (6.71) U. Oxford (5.87) U. Coll. London (5.30)
Immunology U. Oxford (12.77) U. Birmingham (11.88) Imperial College (9.43)
Microbiology U. Edinburgh (8.49) U. East Anglia (7.46) U. Cambridge (7.13)
Biology & Biochemistry U. Dundee (10.01) U. Oxford (8.05) U. Coll. London (7.40)
Molecular Biology U. Dundee (17.74) U. Oxford (15.17) U. Cambridge (13.41)
Neuroscience U. Oxford (7.91) U. Coll. London (7.86) U. Cambridge (7.10)
Pharmacology Imperial College (6.34) U. Cambridge (7.73) Q. Mary & Westfield (6.83)
Psychology/Psychiatry U. Oxford (4.59) King's Coll. London (4.19) U. Cambridge (3.89)
Education U. York (2.18) U. Edinburgh (1.71) U. Sheffield (1.51)
Economics & Business U. Coll. London (2.16) U. Sussex (2.15) U. Oxford (1.96)