September 12, 2003

Vanderbilt top five in research impact

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Kevin Myatt, chief human resources officer, goes underwater in the dunking booth during the Employee Celebration Month Kick-off Tuesday. Several members of the administration participated in the dunking booth. Dana Johnson

Vanderbilt top five in research impact

A recent ranking looking at the scientific impact of the research conducted in biological science fields at the nation’s research universities ranked Vanderbilt in the top five in clinical medicine and pharmacology.

The Thomson Institute for Scientific Information rankings are based on how often research studies conducted between 1997 and 2001 are cited by peer researchers. Vanderbilt’s Pharmacology department ranked first in the nation for the second time in a row. Vanderbilt ranked fifth in Clinical Medicine, up from 10th in the previous ranking (1993-1997).

The ISI rankings look at the total number of scientific papers published by research institutions and the number of times those were cited by other researchers. The score is obtained by dividing the number of citations by the number of published papers, and then the institutions are ranked accordingly.

“It’s no secret that our Vanderbilt faculty conducts some of the world’s most significant research,” said Dr. Steven G. Gabbe, dean of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. “The ISI ranking provides a metric for what we have known all along.”

“As we work toward becoming one of the top 10 academic medical centers in the country, our faculty continues to produce some of the most important, oft-cited research in their fields,” Gabbe said.

An example of leading research at Vanderbilt that is being frequently cited by other groups of researchers is the proteomics study published in the Aug. 9 issue of Lancet by investigators led by Dr. David Carbone from the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center; Vanderbilt School of Medicine’s departments of Medicine, Preventive Medicine, Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery, and Pathology; and Vanderbilt’s Mass Spectrometry Research Center.

The project was part of Vanderbilt’s Specialized Program in Research Excellence (SPORE) in lung cancer, funded by the National Cancer Institute. The study showed that in the future a molecular fingerprint of an individual’s cancer might be used to diagnose that patient’s disease and to tailor his or her therapy. The researchers identified a distinct pattern of expression of 15 proteins in lung cancers that can predict either a poor or good prognosis. All patients in the poor prognosis group died one year after the diagnosis, while all patients in the good prognosis group were still alive. The median survival, the point at which half the patients were still alive, was six months for the poor prognosis group, compared to 33 months for the good prognosis group.

“This type of research is an example of the unique collaborative research done at Vanderbilt that leads to our outstanding ranking,” Gabbe said.

Dr. Harry R. Jacobson, vice chancellor for Health Affairs, said the rankings are an indication that Vanderbilt is progressing well in its strategic plan.

“We’re continuing to climb the ranks of academic medical centers as far as funding from the National Institutes of Health. This year we ranked 18th out of 125 medical schools based on funds received during the fiscal year 2002 and over the past three years have the second fastest growing research program in the country. The ISI ranking shows that not only are we conducting the research and having it published in the world’s top scientific publications, we also have other researchers perched upon our shoulders, using our research to support and further their own ideas.”

Chris King, editor of ISI’s Science Watch, said that citations are a measure of impact.

“Citation count is an indicator of esteem. You can publish a lot, but you may not have impact,” he said. “Citations show how many are drawn to a particular work, and are an indication that good work has been done. They are a repayment of intellectual debt.”