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Concept: Nobel Prize


Nobel Laureates in Physiology or Medicine who received the Prize between 1969 and 2011 are compared to a matched group of scientists to examine productivity, impact, coauthorship and international collaboration patterns embedded within research networks. After matching for research domain, h-index, and year of first of publication, we compare bibliometric statistics and network measures. We find that the Laureates produce fewer papers but with higher average citations. The Laureates also produce more sole-authored papers both before and after winning the Prize. The Laureates have a lower number of coauthors across their entire careers than the matched group, but are equally collaborative on average. Further, we find no differences in international collaboration patterns. The Laureates coauthor network reveals significant differences from the non-Laureate network. Laureates are more likely to build bridges across a network when measuring by average degree, density, modularity, and communities. Both the Laureate and non-Laureate networks have “small world” properties, but the Laureates appear to exploit “structural holes” by reaching across the network in a brokerage style that may add social capital to the network. The dynamic may be making the network itself highly attractive and selective. These findings suggest new insights into the role “star scientists” in social networks and the production of scientific discoveries.

Concepts: Sociology, Networks, Social capital, Social network, Network theory, Nobel Prize, Laureate, Paul Newman


Assessing scholarly influence is critical for understanding the collective system of scholarship and the history of academic inquiry. Influence is multifaceted, and citations reveal only part of it. Citation counts exhibit preferential attachment and follow a rigid “news cycle” that can miss sustained and indirect forms of influence. Building on dynamic topic models that track distributional shifts in discourse over time, we introduce a variant that incorporates features, such as authorship, affiliation, and publication venue, to assess how these contexts interact with content to shape future scholarship. We perform in-depth analyses on collections of physics research (500,000 abstracts; 102 years) and scholarship generally (JSTOR repository: 2 million full-text articles; 130 years). Our measure of document influence helps predict citations and shows how outcomes, such as winning a Nobel Prize or affiliation with a highly ranked institution, boost influence. Analysis of citations alongside discursive influence reveals that citations tend to credit authors who persist in their fields over time and discount credit for works that are influential over many topics or are “ahead of their time.” In this way, our measures provide a way to acknowledge diverse contributions that take longer and travel farther to achieve scholarly appreciation, enabling us to correct citation biases and enhance sensitivity to the full spectrum of scholarly impact.

Concepts: Scientific method, Critical thinking, Physics, Academic publishing, Academia, Nobel Prize, Alfred Nobel, Acknowledgment


Many fields face an increasing prevalence of multi-authorship, and this poses challenges in assessing citation metrics. Here, we explore multiple citation indicators that address total impact (number of citations, Hirsch H index [H]), co-authorship adjustment (Schreiber Hm index [Hm]), and author order (total citations to papers as single; single or first; or single, first, or last author). We demonstrate the correlation patterns between these indicators across 84,116 scientists (those among the top 30,000 for impact in a single year [2013] in at least one of these indicators) and separately across 12 scientific fields. Correlation patterns vary across these 12 fields. In physics, total citations are highly negatively correlated with indicators of co-authorship adjustment and of author order, while in other sciences the negative correlation is seen only for total citation impact and citations to papers as single author. We propose a composite score that sums standardized values of these six log-transformed indicators. Of the 1,000 top-ranked scientists with the composite score, only 322 are in the top 1,000 based on total citations. Many Nobel laureates and other extremely influential scientists rank among the top-1,000 with the composite indicator, but would rank much lower based on total citations. Conversely, many of the top 1,000 authors on total citations have had no single/first/last-authored cited paper. More Nobel laureates of 2011-2015 are among the top authors when authors are ranked by the composite score than by total citations, H index, or Hm index; 40/47 of these laureates are among the top 30,000 by at least one of the six indicators. We also explore the sensitivity of indicators to self-citation and alphabetic ordering of authors in papers across different scientific fields. Multiple indicators and their composite may give a more comprehensive picture of impact, although no citation indicator, single or composite, can be expected to select all the best scientists.

Concepts: Science, Arithmetic, Impact factor, Order theory, Nobel Prize, Bibliometrics, H-index, Citation impact


The Nobel Committees have to follow the nominations submitted for a specific year. During the early phase of X-ray crystallography, a limited number of scientists were active. In 1914 Max von Laue and William Henry Bragg were both nominated and could have been awarded a joint Nobel Prize. However, a member of the Nobel Committee for Physics, Allvar Gullstrand, was well aware of the activities in the field and strongly recommended that only von Laue should receive the prize since a main contributor, William Laurence Bragg, was not nominated. Next year, when the First World War had started, there were few nominations, but now both Braggs, father and son, were nominated. Gullstrand was very pleased and recommended them both for the 1915 Nobel Prize in Physics. The rest of the committee agreed and this then became the decision of the Royal Academy for Sciences, Stockholm.

Concepts: Crystallography, X-ray crystallography, William Lawrence Bragg, Nobel Prize, Nobel Prize in Chemistry, World War I, Max von Laue, James Franck


W. H. Bragg arrived in Australia in 1886 as Head of the Mathematics and Physics Departments at the University of Adelaide. His son, W. L. Bragg, grew up in Adelaide and graduated from the Physics Department. Many years later I graduated from the same department and had the opportunity to share Lawrence Bragg’s recollections of life in Adelaide. As well as touching on the `Adelaide' connection, this report briefly reviews Bragg’s critical role in encouraging, supporting and establishing the field of large-molecule crystallography.

Concepts: Mathematics, William Lawrence Bragg, William Henry Bragg, Nobel Prize, Kathleen Lonsdale, Fellows of the Royal Society, Jubilee 150 Walkway, Trinity College, Cambridge


The influences of Lawrence Bragg and Max Perutz are evident in the contemporary emphasis on `structural enablement' in drug discovery. On this occasion of the centenary of Bragg’s equation, his role in supporting the earliest structural studies of biological materials at the Cavendish Laboratory is remembered. The 1962 Nobel Prizes for the structures of DNA and proteins marked the golden anniversary of the von Laue and Bragg discoveries.

Concepts: DNA, Crystallography, Francis Crick, William Lawrence Bragg, Nobel Prize, Max Perutz, Cavendish Laboratory, Max von Laue


The 2012 Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded to Brian K. Kobilka and Robert J. Lefkowitz for their studies of G-protein-coupled receptors. Their pioneering work over the past 40 years has provided detailed molecular insight into the structure and function of this fundamentally important family of receptors.

Concepts: Signal transduction, Mathematics, G protein-coupled receptor, Metabotropic glutamate receptor, Nobel Prize, Nobel Prize in Chemistry


2011 marked the fiftieth anniversary of breaking the genetic code in 1961. Marshall Nirenberg, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) scientist who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1968 for his role in deciphering the code, wrote in 2004 a personal account of his research. The race for the code was a competition between the NIH group and Severo Ochoa’s laboratory at New York University (NYU) School of Medicine, where I was a graduate student and conducted many of the experiments. I am now 83 years old. These facts prompt me to recall how I, together with Joe Speyer, an instructor in the Department of Biochemistry at NYU, unexpectedly became involved in deciphering the code, which also became the basis of my PhD thesis. Ochoa won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1959 for discovering polynucleotide phosphorylase (PNP), the first enzyme found to synthesize RNA in the test tube. The story of how PNP made the deciphering of the code feasible is recalled here.

Concepts: DNA, RNA, Francis Crick, Nobel Prize, Severo Ochoa, National Medal of Science laureates, New York University School of Medicine


Richard F. Heck, who shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2010 with Akira Suzuki and Ei-ichi Negishi, passed away on October 10, 2015 at the age of 84. Heck developed the palladium-catalyzed carbon-carbon bond-forming reaction between aryl halides and olefins that is known as the Heck reaction, and also rationalized its mechanism. This reaction has become a standard procedure in modern organic synthesis.

Concepts: Chemical reaction, Organic synthesis, Alkene, Heck reaction, Palladium, Nobel Prize, Stille reaction, Richard F. Heck


Garland E. Allen’s 1978 biography of the Nobel Prize winning biologist Thomas Hunt Morgan provides an excellent study of the man and his science. Allen presents Morgan as an opportunistic scientist who follows where his observations take him, leading him to his foundational work in Drosophila genetics. The book was rightfully hailed as an important achievement and it introduced generations of readers to Morgan. Yet, in hindsight, Allen’s book largely misses an equally important part of Morgan’s work - his study of development and regeneration. It is worth returning to this part of Morgan, exploring what Morgan contributed and also why he has been seen by contemporaries and historians such as Allen as having set aside some of the most important developmental problems. A closer look shows how Morgan’s view of cells and development that was different from that of his most noted contemporaries led to interpretation of his important contributions in favor of genetics. This essay is part of a special issue, revisiting Garland Allen’s views on the history of life sciences in the twentieth century.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Biology, Model organism, Thomas Hunt Morgan, Drosophila melanogaster, Nobel Prize