University of Rochester Recognized for Scientific Excellence

Dec. 21, 2010

A recent report by Thomson Reuters shows that discoveries and insights by University of Rochester researchers disproportionately shape the thinking of other scientists.  The study places the University of Rochester on a short list of influential U.S. research institutions whose scholarly publications were referred to most frequently by colleagues. 

“This report is further evidence of the exceptional and innovative work being done by our scientific faculty,” said Joel Seligman, president of the University of Rochester. “It is also an affirmation that our researchers are global leaders and innovators in critical scientific fields such as medicine, engineering, optics, and energy.”

The report compiled the number of times an institution’s researchers were cited by other authors in peer-reviewed scientific journals over a five year period from 2005 to 2009.   During that period the University of Rochester received $1.8 billion in external research funding. The frequency in which a scholar’s work is referenced by another researcher is considered to be an indication of the importance and influence of the original work and is often used as a performance benchmark for individual scientists, institutions, and even entire fields of study.  

The report uses a measure it calls “relative citation impact” which takes into account the number of citations, the prominence of the journals in which the citations appear, and field in which an individual institution specializes. This analysis is intended to measure the quality of an institution’s scientific output, regardless of the quantity of published research. In the report, the University of Rochester ranked 17th in the nation in relative citation impact and its score has increased over the last 30 years even as average U.S. university performance essentially remained flat. 

Examples of work by University of Rochester scientists that have been frequently cited in recent years include: research that has led to the creation of an new scientific discipline to examine the potential health risks of nanoparticles; work identifying cancer patients at risk for deadly blood clots; studies demonstrating how video games can improve vision and decision-making; studies establishing the effectiveness and safety of a new vaccine for pandemic influenza; the development of new imaging techniques that enable scientists to view objects on a nano and molecular scale; cardiac research on a rare family of heart arrhythmias and the effectiveness of a new class of cardiac defibrillators; the development of a class of ultra thin membranes that can filter molecular sized particles; and a novel approach to the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.  

“One of the true indicators of the importance of a scientific discovery is the degree to which it serves as a foundation of future knowledge,” said Ralph Kuncl, Ph.D., M.D., provost of the University of Rochester. “The mission of research universities is to push the boundaries of science and contribute to our collective understanding. By this measure, our scientists are at the forefront of efforts to address some of the most complex scientific problems facing our society.”

“The academic principle of disseminating scientific knowledge is essential to the process of translating discoveries into new treatments, innovation, and technologies,” said Bradford C. Berk, M.D., Ph.D., CEO of the University of Rochester Medical Center. “The process of harnessing shared and accumulated knowledge to advance science and improve health is a vital component of U.S. global economic and scientific leadership. This report underscores the unique and central contribution that research universities make to the nation’s economic vitality.”

The full Thomson Reuters study – titled “Global Research Report: United States” – is available at: