Respiratory System

Publication Analysis 1998-2009
by Ralf Neumann, Labtimes 02/2011

Europe... ... and the World Most Cited Authors... ... and Papers

Most Cited Authors - Pictures

England dominates European respiratory system research more clearly than most other biomedical disciplines. Most-cited topics are asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and pulmonary hypertension.

It’s not difficult to guess that research into the respiratory system is dominated by disease topics. This fact, however, immediately turns it into a rather broad field, the reason being that lung and airway diseases are probably more diverse than the diseases of any other human organ system. One of the consequences, therefore, is that apart from the “obvious” fields of pneumology, pulmology and internal medicine, quite a variety of other medical fields are also attracted to lung research.

The most obvious example, of course, is lung cancer, which certainly is a major research topic for many oncologists and pathologists. This fact, however, is actually nothing unusual since the same is true for more or less every organ system that can be affected by tumour development.

In contrast, more specific variety is introduced to the field by two other pre-dominating airway diseases: asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Among other factors (smoking, for example), one of the main underlying reasons for both of those malfunctions is the fact that the respiratory system interacts with our environment in a much more direct manner than the majority of other organs. Therefore, in the cases of asthma and COPD, considerable numbers of researchers from epidemiology and public health, immunology and allergology, environmental and occupational medicine, social medicine and paediatrics also enter the “respiratory field”.

One system, much input

However, this is still not the end of the line. So far, we still haven’t spoken about lung and airway infections, such as tuberculosis, which means we should also keep our eyes peeled for microbiologists, infectiologists and, once again, immunologists. And, of course, all the physiologists, biochemists, cell and molecular biologists, etc. who perform basic research into the function of the respiratory system also remain to be mentioned.

So, when it comes to a publication analysis of European respiratory research – shouldn’t it be a bit like comparing apples with oranges given this remarkable variety of disciplines involved? Wait and see!

First of all, one “technical” point. Many of the “top papers” on respiratory research are, indeed, published in multidisciplinary journals like Nature, Science or The Lancet. Nevertheless, we had to restrict a certain part of the analysis to the 43 expert journals listed in the subject category “Respiratory System” of Thomson Reuter’s database Web of Science, which was used for this analysis. The reason is that Web of Science doesn’t provide any sufficiently reliable tools to automatically extract relevant respiratory system articles from those multidisciplinary journals. Of course, as a result, some of the most prominent papers in the field have been omitted from the performance analysis of individual countries (see tables p. 37). Despite this limitation, however, we believe that a survey, restricted to the specialist journals only, still provides sufficiently valid indicators for the countries’ overall productivity in respiratory system research. On the contrary, rankings of the most-cited researchers and papers (see tables, p. 38) could be analysed from publications in all journals.

Not many surprises

Given this directive, let’s have a look at how the publication performance in respiratory research during the period 1998-2009 is distributed among the individual European countries. The fact that England emerges as the “winner” in terms of number of articles and overall citations isn’t really unexpected. What is somewhat of a surprise, however, is just how wide the gap is to followers, Germany and France. Both those countries each achieved barely 55% of England’s article count; and even both together collected a mere handful more citations than their English colleagues.

Otherwise, the list hardly reveals any further surprises. In terms of overall citations, the individual countries more or less appear at their “usual” positions when compared to other biomedical disciplines. And when it comes to average citation rates, it’s yet again the Nordic countries that climb to the top, headed by Sweden with 18.4 citations per article, followed by Denmark with 17.0 and Finland with 16.0. Perhaps a small surprise in this respect might be that, among the large European research nations, it was Germany that this time achieved the highest average citation rate with 12.8 citations per article.

And beyond the European borders? When compared to their US colleagues, European publications in the expert journals for respiratory system research altogether collected only marginally more citations (597,000 vs. 584,000). The US-based authors, however, actually needed a considerably lower total number of publications to achieve that “tie” in citation frequency.

Furthermore, Canada, in particular, turned out to be a strong performer in respiratory system research: only slightly fewer publications in total when compared to Germany and France, but clearly more citations in total – thanks to the comparatively high average rate of 16 citations per article.

Interestingly, the predominance of England in European respiratory system research is not so clearly reflected by the lists of the most-cited papers and authors. Of the five most-cited papers with European correspondence addresses, numbers one and four come from England, whereas numbers two and three are from Germany and number five from France. In terms of topics, numbers one and two are about asthma, number four about chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and numbers three and five are clinical drug studies on the therapy of pulmonary hypertension.

Oranges in the apple basket?

A similar picture, at first view, emerges when looking at the 30 most-cited authors of European respiratory research. Nine researchers from England made it into this “Top 30” but also nine from Germany (and three from France).

The top positions, on the other hand, are firmly in English hands: the first place went to Peter Barnes, director of the National Heart and Lung Institute at the Imperial College in London (which incidentally brought four more of its researchers into the “Top 30”). He was followed by Stephen Holgate, Southampton, in second place and David Strachan, London, in fourth. All three are mainly asthma specialists but with each one taking a different approach: Barnes combines basic and clinical research into asthma therapy, Holgate investigates the immunology of asthma, whereas Strachan studies its epidemiological aspects.

Gerald Simonneau, Paris, and Werner Seeger, Gießen, in places three and seven, respectively, head the group of pulmonary hypertension specialists in the list, whereas Heinz Wichmann (5th) and Erika von Mutius (6th), both Munich, also add to the expectedly strong performance of asthma researchers.

Wichmann, however, also highlights a certain “problem”. Being an epidemiologist, he only achieved a part of his papers with studies on asthma or other airway diseases, whilst also publishing on tumour or cardiovascular diseases. Similar cases are not only provided by other epidemiologists but also by some allergologists – like, for example, Ulrich Wahn (Berlin, 12th) who published about half-and-half on asthma and allergic skin diseases.

Seen this way, there might indeed be a few oranges in the apple basket!


Articles appearing between 1998 and 2009 in ‘Respiratory System’ journals as listed by Thomson Reuter’s Web of Science. The citation numbers are accurate as of February 2011. A country’s figures are derived from articles where at least one author working in the respective European nation is included in the author’s list. Israel is included because it is a member of many European research organisations and programmes (EMBO, FP7 of the EU...).

Citations of articles published between 1998 and 2009 were recorded up until Feb 2011 using the Web of Science database from Thomson Reuters. The “most cited papers” had correspondence addresses in Europe or Israel.


Country Citations Articles Cit./Art.

... and the World

Citations Articles Cit./Art.

Most Cited Authors...

Citations Articles
1.Peter J. Barnes, Natl. Heart & Lung Inst. Imperial Coll. London26.476470
2.Stephen T. Holgate, Infect. Inflammat. & Immun. Univ. Southampton14.123312
3.Gerald Simonneau, Pneumol. Hosp. Ant. Béclère Univ. Paris-Sud13.213176
4.David P. Strachan, Epidemiol. St. Georges Hosp. Univ. London12.814158
5.Heinz-E. Wichmann, Epidemiol. Helmholtz Ctr. Munich 12.489344
6.Erika von Mutius, Dr. v. Haunersches Children’s Hosp. Univ. Munich12.188180
7.Werner Seeger, Internal Med. Univ. Giessen10.031339
8.Kian Fan Chung, Natl. Heart & Lung Inst. Imperial Coll. London8.927223
9.Marc Humbert, Pneumol. Hosp. Ant. Béclère Univ. Paris-Sud8.806207
10.Dirkje S. Postma, Pulm. Dis. Univ. Med. Ctr. Groningen8.331295
11.Antoni Torres, Pneumol. & Allergia Resp. Hosp. Clin. Barcelona8.213253
12.Ulrich Wahn, Pneumol. & Immunol. Univ. Child. Hosp. Charité Berlin8.011226
13.Jean Bousquet, Serv. Malad. Resp. Hosp. A. Villeneuve Montpellier 7.705273
14.William MacNee, Inflammat. Res. Queens Med. Inst. Edinburgh7.668115
15.Stephen R. Durham, Natl. Heart & Lung Inst. Imperial Coll. London7.651150
16.Joachim Heinrich, Epidemiol. Helmholtz Ctr. Munich7.595277
17.Friedrich Grimminger, Lung Ctr. Univ. Giessen7.540239
18.Romain A. Pauwels, Resp. Dis. State Univ. Ghent Hosp. († 2005)7.286128
19.Kurt Blaser, Swiss Inst. Allergy & Asthma Res. Davos7.285138
20.Bert Brunekreef, Environm. Epidemiol. Fac. Med. Univ. Utrecht7.268218
21.Emiel F.M. Wouters, Resp. Med. Univ. Hosp. Maastricht6.903211
22.Peter M.A. Calverley, Resp. Med. Sch. Clin. Sci. Univ. Liverpool6.72897
23.Ian M. Adcock, Natl. Heart & Lung Inst. Imperial Coll. London6.660147
24.Christian Manegold, Thoracic Oncol. Univ. Med. Ctr. Mannheim6.569124
25.Ulrich Keil, Epidemiol. & Social Med. Univ. Munster6.53491
26.Andrew G. Nicholson, Histopathol. Royal Brompton Hosp. London6.226173
27.Cezmi A. Akdis, Swiss Inst. Allergy & Asthma Res. Davos6.215129
28.Klaus F. Rabe, Pulmonol. Leiden Univ. Med. Ctr.5.979161
29.Jørgen Vestbo, Resp. Med. Univ.’s Copenhagen & Manchester5.954108
30.Joachim von Pawel, Pneumol. Oncol. Asklepios Hosp. Munich-Gauting5.84461

... and Papers

1.Leckie, MJ; ten Brinke, A; Khan, J; [...]; Chung, KF; Djukanovic, R; Hansel, TT; Holgate, T; Sterk, PJ; Barnes, PJ
Effects of an interleukin-5 blocking monoclonal antibody on eosinophils, airway hyper-responsiveness, and the late asthmatic response.
LANCET, 356 (9248): 2144-2148 DEC 23 2000
2.Braun-Fahrlander, C; Riedler, J; Herz, U; [...]; Renz, H; Nowak, D; von Mutius, E
Environmental exposure to endotoxin and its relation to asthma in school-age children.
NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE, 347 (12): 869-877 SEP 19 2002
3.lschewski, H; Simonneau, G; Galie, N; [...]; Ewert, R; Siedentop, H; Seeger, W
Inhaled iloprost for severe pulmonary hypertension.
NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE, 347 (5): 322-329 AUG 1 2002
4.Seemungal, TAR; Donaldson, GC; Paul, EA; Bestall, JC; Jeffries, DJ; Wedzicha, JA
Effect of exacerbation on quality of life in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
5.Galie, N; Ghofrani, HA; Torbicki, A; [...]; Grimminger, F; Kurzyna, M; Simonneau, G
Sildenafil citrate therapy for pulmonary arterial hypertension.
NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE, 353 (20): 2148-2157 NOV 17 2005

Last Changed: 31.03.2012