On 19 November 2019, the much-awaited list of “who is who” in various research fields across institutions of the world, the list of “Highly Cited Researchers” was released by The Web of Science Group, a subsidiary of Clarivate Analytics based in the United States. The purpose of the list was to showcase the significance and contribution of researchers in solving problems and contributing to the body of knowledge based on a global bibliometric analysis of the top 1% citations which is referencing of the previous study by other researchers from 2008 – 2018 across twenty-one fields of sciences and social sciences.
The “most influential” researcher in Nigeria
Overall, more than 6200 researchers in science and social sciences from 60 countries were highly cited by their peers. While the United States ranked first as the country with the highest number of most cited researchers, only one research scientist – Professor Oye Gureje from Nigeria made the list. The same researcher made the list in 2018. Professor Gureje is an internationally known medical research scientist specialising in psychiatry, global mental health, and epidemiology. He had both Doctor of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees aside his medical degree (MBBS). He is also the Director, WHO Collaborating Centre for Research and Training in Mental Health at the University of Ibadan. His available online profile shows he has published over 380 scientific publications that have been cited for over 27,100 times. Similarly, he has published in the world most reputable journals such as The Lancet with the impact factor of 59 (2018). In the research community, publishing in The Lancet journal is as winning a gold medal to an Olympian. Professor Gureje had seven of his research findings published in this prestigious journal.
He has, however, collaborated with more than 2500 researchers as co-author of scientific publications. His most recent research output was published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Psychiatric Sciences called for collaboration and partnership in mental health research and capacity building in sub-Saharan Africa. As of November 2019, he has published 18 scientific publications in high impact journals including Nature. The research finding that was published in the Nature journal was in collaboration with over 1000 co-authors and the publication has already been cited 18 times. Publishing in the Lancet and Nature journals is one of the criteria that are used for World Ranking of institutions in the world. This implies that Professor Gureje is also contributing to the global reputation of his employer.
Impact of research and “highly cited researchers”
While the current list of “highly cited researchers” is provided by a private organization, there is a need for institutional indicator most highly cited researchers. This could be incorporated into the criteria for the promotion. This will ensure carrying out impactful research and publishing the outcome of such research in reputable journals. However, many researchers from developing countries are still publishing in less reputable journals. This could affect the citations and ranking of such researchers. The list of highly cited researchers can foster research collaboration and mentorship for the upcoming research scientists. It also showcases the importance of carrying out impactful research as against the “publish or perish” syndrome that placed a premium on quantity rather than the quality of publications which has precipitated publishing in predatory journals. Becoming a “highly cited researcher” not only serves as a means of recognition to the researcher but also to the affiliated institution and this could easily attract competitive research funds. Achieving such feat as the “highly cited researcher” in a field is not a child’s play, but rather a compendium of deliberate and dogged effort in personal and career development because research is not for a lazy man. Similarly, researchers do not need to seek undue recognition or hyping the output of their research activities but rather focused on robust research that can solve complex problems while recognition comes as a reward for such hard work.
Contributing and constraining factors
Why was it only the University of Ibadan that made the list? What are the contributing factors? The same university also made the recent World Ranking list. One might opine that it was because the university was the first institution in Nigeria. There are more than five-generation universities in Nigeria that have not made the list even once regardless of twice consecutively while Covenant University, a private university that was established just two decades ago made the World Ranking list twice. The major connecting factor between both institutions is their commitment to research and development. The importance and impacts of research and researchers in achieving national development cannot be overemphasized. It helps in solving complex national and global problems, drive innovation, build intellectual capital and fill the knowledge gap. However, adequate research funding is the driving engine of impactful research. There is a need for the government, institutions and non-governmental organizations to provide accountable funding for robust research.