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The most discussed and shared scientific research of 2018

By Alex Jackson December 11, 2018

Climate crisis, false news, and alcohol’s effects on health top the list of 2018’s most discussed research

December 11 2018, London, UK: From the shocking mortality rates in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria to the spread of false news online, many of this year’s most important issues feature in the Altmetric Top 100, released today.

The annual Altmetric Top 100 highlights research published in 2018 that has generated significant international online attention and discussion – from post-publication peer review sites and public policy documents to mainstream media, blogs, Wikipedia, and social media platforms.

Top 10 articles of 2018:

  1. Mortality in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria (New England Journal of Medicine, July 2018)
  2. The spread of true and false news online (Science, March 2018)
  3. Alcohol use and burden for 195 countries and territories, 1990–2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016 (The Lancet, September 2018)
  4. Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene (PNAS, August 2018)
  5. Association between physical exercise and mental health in 1·2 million individuals in the USA between 2011 and 2015: a cross-sectional study (The Lancet Psychiatry, September 2018)
  6. Dietary carbohydrate intake and mortality: a prospective cohort study and meta-analysis (The Lancet Public Health, September 2018)
  7. Evidence that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is rapidly accumulating plastic (Scientific Reports, March 2018)
  8. Complementary Medicine, Refusal of Conventional Cancer Therapy, and Survival Among Patients With Curable Cancers (JAMA Oncology, October 2018)
  9. Global warming transforms coral reef assemblages (Nature, April 2018)
  10. The biomass distribution on Earth (PNAS, May 2018)

The Altmetric Top 100 typically features research from a variety of disciplines, written by authors from all corners of the globe.

This year’s Top 100 includes articles that touch on many topics, with a particular focus on themes such as the dire environmental consequences of climate change, links between mental health and physical fitness, and the spread of misinformation online.

Satchit Balsari, a co-author of the most discussed academic paper this year, emphasised the importance of his team’s research on mortality rates following Hurricane Maria. The event is regarded as the worst natural disaster on record to affect Dominica and Puerto Rico.

He said: “Colleagues from Puerto Rico were concerned that the official death counts seemed very low compared to what they were seeing in their communities, and reached out to us to see whether there was a way to help ascertain the mortality estimate.

“Given the large difference in our mortality estimates and the official counts, it was gratifying to see that the media played its role in efficiently translating a scientific paper for mass consumption.”

The paper is the most widely shared in the Altmetric Top 100’s six-year history.

“The Altmetric Top 100 continues to highlight an array of fascinating and diverse research that often relates to the broader cultural zeitgeist and the year’s most notable events,” said Catherine Williams, COO, Altmetric. “From climate change to misinformation and diets, the most widely shared and discussed research focuses on global challenges that affect us all. Encouragingly, the levels of attention we see here demonstrates that expert knowledge still plays a very central role in our shared understanding of these issues.”

This year’s list features papers published in 45 different journals. The University of Cambridge had the most affiliated papers (10 papers), while the journal Science featured more than any other (12 times).

View the full list at:


Notes to Editors


Data was collated on the 15 November 2018, for articles published from November 15 2017 onwards. Author and institutional data was collated via a mixture of automatic matching with data from Dimensions and manual curation. Altmetric Attention Scores shown on the Top 100 site were captured at the time of collation, and may have changed slightly since. For more information about the Altmetric Top 100, visit our website.

About Altmetric

Altmetric’s mission is to track and analyze the online activity around scholarly literature. We collate what people are saying about published research outputs in scholarly and non-scholarly forums like the mainstream media, policy documents, social networks, and blogs to provide a more robust picture of the influence and reach of scholarly work. Altmetric works with some of the biggest publishers, funders, and institutions around the world to deliver this data in an accessible and reliable format.

Altmetric is supported by Digital Science. Find out more at and follow us on Twitter @altmetric.

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