Two UP professors named on 2019 Web of Science Highly Cited Researcher list

Posted on December 16, 2019

Two internationally renowned researchers from the University of Pretoria (UP), Professor Mike Wingfield and Professor Pedro Crous, have been included on the 2019 Web of Science list of the world's most highly cited researchers. Prof Wingfield was the founding Director of the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI) and continues to drive his research programme in the Institute, while Prof Crous is an Extraordinary Professor at UP and Director of the Westerdijk Fungal Biodiversity Institute, Netherlands.

These two NRF A-rated researchers are among 6 200 scientists across various fields identified by the Web of Science Group as the world’s most influential scientists. The 2019 Highly Cited Researchers list ranked the top one percent of papers published and cited between 2008 and 2018. The list recognises “scientists and social scientists who have demonstrated significant influence through publication of multiple papers, highly cited by their peers, during the last decade”.

When asked what this means to him, Prof Wingfield said: “Being included on this prestigious list has value, especially to organisations for which such metrics are important in terms of global rankings and reputation. In this regard, I believe that UP derives benefit and I am happy to be able to contribute to the global standing of our outstanding institution.”

He said while he was happy to have his research recognised in terms of citation and interest, his view was that metrics, including this one, “should be interpreted with insight and circumspection”. 

“There are many different metrics that provide measures of academic and research excellence. They include H-factors (there are many of these with different levels of rigor), journal impact factors, NRF ratings, etc, and these should not be seen in isolation of many other possible measures of accomplishment. Here, I have a personal favourite – one that has no formal metric that I know of. I call this the P-factor, short for peer factor. And it would (if it existed) measure what one’s peers think of one as a human being and the way one behaves within the research environment.

“The Clarivate Highly Cited list, as I understand it, utilises an algorithm that considers the number of citations for an academic’s recent publications. An important consideration here is that one’s research is typically conducted in teams, and it also includes the work of gifted students and colleagues. Consequently, my name on this list represents the accomplishments of many colleagues and students and far more than only my own. I am privileged to be part of an incredible team at FABI,” he said.

Amongst other fields, the team at FABI includes one of the world’s strongest groups of scientists and students studying fungi (mycology) and plant diseases.

“Our work in these fields represents very substantial national and international collaborations and this strongly illustrates the power of collaboration within and across fields of science. And it is unquestionably this collaboration and these linkages that are reflected in my being included on the Highly Cited Researchers list,” Prof Wingfield concluded. 



Professor Pedro Crous

Prof Crous said it was important to remember the context within which the list has value. 

“Basically, it means that your research output gets seen and cited by your peers. More important, though, but infinitely more difficult to measure, is the relevance and potential application of your research and the value thereof over time.”

These are the only researchers from UP to crack the list in 2019. However, FABI researchers are no strangers to this achievement.

Prof Wingfield and Prof Crous have both made the list three times in recent years. In 2018 Prof Wingfield shared the honour with Professor Bernard Slippers, Director of FABI, Founding Director of Future Africa, Director of FABI’s Tree Protection Co-operative Programme and a core team member of the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Tree Health Biotechnology.

- Author Martie Meyer

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