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Brief comment from the Medical Research Council

Posted by iviney on 11 Mar 2019 at 17:45 GMT

The set of papers included in this study with more than 1000 citations (representing less than 0.1% of UK health research UK publications) have a high proportion of atypical research articles describing software, standards, methods or setting clinical guidelines, which become routinely cited in the literature but represent a distinct type of influence.
The way that researcher contributions are acknowledged in papers ( and the importance of teamwork and collaborations (especially in informatics and guideline papers) mean that a search focussed on the PI’s name only (ignoring co-investigators), in first or last author position, will miss a lot of important contributions. Better datasets are available (for example the UKRI Gateway to Research, which we would have been pleased to provide to the authors. The paper misses out on contributions from other very important UK grant funders and the UK benefits from a diversity of funding sources for biomedicine.
Dr Ian Viney, Medical Research Council

Competing interests declared: I am employed by the Medical Research Council, part of UKRI

RE: Brief comment from the Medical Research Council

cstavropoulou replied to iviney on 12 Mar 2019 at 16:29 GMT

Dear Dr Viney,
Thank you for your comment. It raises a number of different issues, which we try to answer below.
First, the paper acknowledges that citations have limitations and that indeed “the vast majority of influential, important, and worthy scientific work will not attract that much attention”. Yet, the analysed papers are unquestionably extremely influential and so are their authors. “Software, standards, methods or setting clinical guidelines” are extremely important tenants of and core to the research enterprise. It is a pity that often they are outside the radar screen of public funding agencies and non-for-profit charities, and thus end up unfunded or (in the case of guidelines) usurped by private, conflicted interests with negative consequences for health and public health at large.
Second, as imperfect as it is to use the first and last author of a paper in the analysis, it is a way of distinguishing scientists who are unquestionably main contributors among a long list of authors.
Third, UKRI Gateway to Research provides excellent information about funded projects, but not non-funded ones, therefore it would not have been useful for the purpose of this paper.
Finally, a comprehensive analysis of the contribution from all UK grant funders was not the scope of this paper. On this topic you may find the following systematic review of interest:
UK funders, and the MRC in particular, have been great supporters of research on research and it is in this field that our study contributes.
The authors.

No competing interests declared.