VIMS researchers top citation analysis

A new analysis of articles published in leading coastal science journals between 1971 and 2003 shows that VIMS researchers have authored 3 of the 10 most highly cited works during that span.

"Having a publication cited by many other authors is a sure sign that your work has value," says VIMS Dean and Director John Wells. "VIMS is extremely proud that three of our scientists have had such a demonstrable impact on the global research community.”

Researchers Bob Diaz, Hugh Ducklow, and John Milliman were recognized for seminal publications in the field of coastal biogeochemistry, an increasingly important discipline that deals with interactions in the coastal ocean among organisms, sediments, and water chemistry.

Diaz's 1995 publication in Oceanography and Marine Biology Annual Review was the most highly cited monograph during the study's 32-year span. It describes how areas of low oxygen affect bottom-dwelling marine organisms. These "dead zones" occur when and where nutrient pollution depletes oxygen stores, making life difficult for marine creatures. The number and size of dead zones has doubled every decade since the 1970s, with significant economic and environmental costs. About 150 dead zones now exist in the world's oceans and seas.

Ducklow's 1992 paper in Advances in Microbial Ecology was the seventh most highly cited paper. It revealed the key role that marine bacteria play in marine food webs and in the recycling of elements in the ocean. Ducklow's work on ocean bacteria shows them to be a critical component of the global carbon and nitrogen cycles, and thus an important variable in accurate predictions of global climate change.

"These citations highlight one of VIMS' great strengths," Ducklow said. "We're a very diverse place, with faculty and students working around the globe in many ecosystems, and applying the knowledge and experience gained to the Commonwealth and the Bay region."

Milliman's 1992 paper in the Journal of Geology ranked fourth on the list. It first revealed the significance of small mountain rivers in the global sediment budget. Rivers form the major link between land and sea, discharging between 15 and 18 billion tons of suspended solids each year. Milliman’s work showed that rivers draining young, rugged mountains discharge far more sediment than expected—for instance, more than 40% of the ocean's annual sediment input comes from mountain rivers in southern Asia and Oceania alone.

The citation analysis, by researchers Jean-Pierre Gattuso, Nelly Dawson, Carlos Duarte, and Jack Middelburg, appeared in the June 9, 2005 issue of Marine Ecology Progress Series. It was based on their study of a bibliographic database comprising 17,604 references from the Aquatic Science and Fisheries Abstracts and the Web of Science databases.

Overall, the analysis shows that the coastal ocean began receiving greatly increased scientific attention in the early 1990s, in step with increasing human populations in the coastal zone and consequent environmental impacts. It reveals a twofold increase in the yearly publication rate for coastal-ocean articles since 1990, and a three-fold increase relative to the publication rate of all other marine-science disciplines.