How to Become a Highly Cited Scientific Author

How to Become a Highly Cited Scientific Author

The best way to become a highly cited author is to write an excellent methods paper.

That paradigm-changing hypothesis: it is probably wrong. If it's correct and genuinely paradigm-changing, it'll take years before it's widely accepted. That manuscript won't be highly cited for a long time: perhaps decades, paradigm-changing science is slow. Potentially paradigm-shifting papers are great for the long game, but they are unlikely to get you highly cited in the short term.

A good methods paper, a manuscript that introduces a new, reproducible, and practical scientific method, with a clear advantage over existing methods, is invaluable. Everyone cites these types of manuscripts because they help. I am still surprised, every time, when I follow an experimental section and the experiment works! Those papers are godsends.

The keywords here are "new" and "clear advantage." A minor improvement on an existing method and a failure to cite similar methods to make your method look novel will not work. The above lazy practices are more likely to annoy than help your scientific colleagues.

Also, when writing methods, please describe what you did and what you observed! For example, should there be a color change, coagulation, precipitation, crystallization, should the mixture be a suspension or solution, etc.? I would say 90% of the experimental sections across all journals are pretty useless. Most methods sections are written as if they were afterthoughts or an annoyance.

Methods may seem less glorious to some. But they make undisputable scientific impacts and thus play a central role in advancing science and society.

Take a look at the ten most highly cited papers below. How many of these methods have directly helped your science?


# 1: 305,148 Citations
Protein measurement with the folin phenol reagent. 1951, J. Biol. Chem.
# 2: 213,005 Citations
Cleavage of structural proteins during the assembly of the head of bacteriophage T4. 1970, Nature
# 3: 155,530 Citations
A rapid and sensitive method for the quantitation of microgram quantities of protein utilizing the principle of protein-dye binding. 1976, Anal. Biochem.
# 4: 65,335 Citations
DNA sequencing with chain-terminating inhibitors. 1977, Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA
# 5: 60,397 Citations
Single-step method of RNA isolation by acid guanidinium thiocyanate-phenol-chloroform extraction. 1987, Anal. Biochem.
# 6: 53,349 Citations
Electrophoretic transfer of proteins from polyacrylamide gels to nitrocellulose sheets: procedure and some applications. 1979, Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA
# 7: 46,702 Citations
Development of the Colle-Salvetti correlation-energy formula into a functional of the electron density. 1988, Phys. Rev. B
# 8: 46,145 Citations
Density-functional thermochemistry. III. The role of exact exchange. 1993, J. Chem. Phys.
# 9: 45,131 Citations
A simple method for the isolation and purification of total lipides from animal tissues. 1957, J. Biol. Chem.
# 10: 40,289 Citations
Clustal W: improving the sensitivity of progressive multiple sequence alignment through sequence weighting, position-specific gap penalties and weight matrix choice.1994, Nucleic Acids Res.

You may also like