Climate papers | Carbon Brief
In our recent series on the top climate change papers,
we brought you which ones scientists think are the
most influential and which are the most
cited by other researchers.
With the help of Altmetric, we also looked into
which research articles have made the biggest splash in the news
and on social media. But, as a few eagle-eyed readers pointed out
to us, it seems there were some papers that were overlooked.
Altmetric has now expanded their search to make sure
no paper is missed. So here's our revised take on which papers have
made the biggest impact in the wider world.
Altmetric tracks when academic papers are mentioned in
online news articles and on social media platforms, such Twitter
and Facebook. It collates these mentions and gives each paper
score for how much attention it received. Featuring in a
major national newspaper will contribute a bigger score to a paper
than being in a niche publication. A paper with no mentions will
score zero, for example, while an article with a score of
over 20 has received significant attention from
journalists or perhaps caused a stir online.
To match our analysis of the most cited climate change
papers, Altmetric ran a keyword search for papers mentioning
"climate change" or "global warming". However, the original
Altmetric search capped the number of papers it returned to 10,000,
which meant some high-scoring papers were missed off.
Altmetric's founder, Euan Adie, explains
to Carbon Brief:
"What I didn't realize when
pulling this data the first time round was that the search engine I
used to find articles with the two terms we were interested in only
returned the 'most relevant' results. Instead of 17,000 results we
got back 10,000, and amongst the missing articles were many that,
to be consistent, should have been in the top 100. This means the
original data was incomplete and the ranking was out; the updated
data fixes this."
Altmetric have now extended this cap to 20,000 papers,
and intend to remove the cap completely in the near future. You can
try out the tool yourself with the Altmetric
From the new set of search results, we filtered out
all the entries that were news, editorials and books, leaving just
research articles to analyse, which we then trimmed to a top
Unfortunately, this did mean cutting out the
highest-scoring climate change article of any kind, which was a
News & Views piece in Nature on the reemergence of
dragons due to warmer temperatures, published on 1st April this
Finally, one point to note is that Altmetric only
started tracking papers in July 2011, so this analysis only covers
papers published over the past four years.
So what research have we all been reading and tweeting
The top-ranked article is "High-Resolution
Global Maps of 21st-Century Forest Cover Change" by lead
Matthew Hansen at the University of Maryland in the
US, which was published in November 2013.
The paper describes how the researchers used satellite
data to map global forest change between 2000 and 2012. They found
that forest losses of around 2.3m square kilometers (sq km)
outweighed gains of 0.8m sq km. With the help of Google Earth,
the team created an
interactive mapping tool to show changes in forests down
to a resolution of just 30 metres.
Hansen and his colleagues found forest clearance was
largest in the tropics, with increases in deforestation in
Indonesia, Malaysia, Paraguay, Bolivia, Zambia and Angola
offsetting a reduction in Brazil.