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The most discussed and shared research and commentary of 2020

By Alex Jackson January 20, 2021

Covid-19, racial justice, climate change, the origins of life and other crucial issues all garnered attention in 2020.

January 20 2021, London, UK: From Covid-19 to engineering the perfect espresso, controversial, important, and unusual research and scholarly editorials from across the sciences, arts, and humanities feature in this year’s Altmetric Top 100 list, released today. 

The annual Altmetric Top 100 highlights research and scholarly commentary published in 2020 that generated significant international online attention and discussion – from patents and public policy documents to mainstream media, blogs, Wikipedia and social media platforms. This year’s Top 100 represents the most discussed research from all disciplines, selecting the top five works by Altmetric Attention Score from twenty subjects.

Unsurprisingly, Covid-19 research accounts for roughly 30% of  the Top 100 across many disciplines including biomedicine, built environment and design, and economics. Virus transmission and face mask protection were among the most heavily discussed topics.

Top articles on Covid-19 include:

  • Effectiveness of Adding a Mask Recommendation to Other Public Health Measures to Prevent SARS-CoV-2 Infection in Danish Mask Wearers
  • Aerosol and Surface Stability of SARS-CoV-2 as Compared with SARS-CoV-1
  • It Is Time to Address Airborne Transmission of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
  • Remdesivir and chloroquine effectively inhibit the recently emerged novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in vitro
  • A modelling framework to assess the likely effectiveness of facemasks in combination with “lock-down” in managing the COVID-19 pandemic

In addition to Covid-19, two other themes emerged in this years’ Top 100: climate change and racism. In a year that saw global lockdowns and a corresponding dip in CO2 emissions, it’s no wonder that one article discusses exactly this. Other articles on the subject of climate change look at deforestation, the rising temperatures in our oceans and greenhouse gas emissions.

Top articles on climate change include:

  • Global increase in major tropical cyclone exceedance probability over the past four decades
  • Record-Setting Ocean Warmth Continued in 2019
  • Deforestation and world population sustainability: a quantitative analysis
  • Global human-made mass exceeds all living biomass
  • Temporary reduction in daily global CO2 emissions during the COVID-19 forced confinement
  • Utilizing smart-meter data to project impacts of urban warming on residential electricity use for vulnerable populations in Southern California
  • Comparative Greenhouse Gas Footprinting of Online versus Traditional Shopping for Fast-Moving Consumer Goods: A Stochastic Approach

On the topic of racial justice, two articles in the Top 100 discuss and reflect on police violence and reform whilst others discuss the subject of institutional racism in academia.

  • Mapping fatal police violence across U.S. metropolitan areas: Overall rates and racial/ethnic inequities, 2013-2017
  • Active learning narrows achievement gaps for underrepresented students in undergraduate science, technology, engineering, and math
  • Five Years after Ferguson: Reflecting on Police Reform and What’s Ahead
  • Decolonizing Art History
  • Making Black Women Scientists under White Empiricism: The Racialization of Epistemology in Physics
  • Disadvantages in preparing and publishing scientific papers caused by the dominance of the English language in science: The case of Colombian researchers in biological sciences

Kathy Christian, CEO, Altmetric, said: “It’s fascinating to see the trends that shape the Top 100 list each year. In 2020, Covid-19 dominated the minds of everyone and scientific research was front and center in the global media as pharmaceutical companies rushed to find a vaccine for this deadly virus. But it is also important to remember that other, important, research was also taking place. Research on racial justice, climate change, the origins of life and other crucial issues also garnered significant attention in 2020. This list demonstrated the crucial role that research plays in our everyday lives.”

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Notes to editors:

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 altmetric.com and follow us on Twitter @altmetric.

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