25 November 2021

Four researchers at Linköping University (LiU) have been included on a list of the world’s most cited academics. The list has been put together by the company Clarivate. Every year, Clarivate uses this list to celebrate influential researchers.

Emil Björnsson.
Emil Björnson, associate professor at the Department for Electrical Engineering (ISY) at Linköping University, is one of the names on this year’s list of the world’s most-cited researchers. In this picture, he is holding a mobile base station from Ericsson, a piece of equipment based on “Massive MIMO” technology, the subject of his most-cited article.

Four from LiU

Clarivate has once again released its “Highly Cited Researchers List” of academics who have had the highest impact in journals. This long list is seen as a metric of these researchers’ influence in their respective specialist areas. Individual researchers are included in the list based on how much their articles have been cited in other academic publications during the past decade. The 2021 list includes 6602 researchers from all over the world. Among these, 49 are based in Sweden, and four at LiU.

One of them is Emil Björnson, associate professor at the Department for Electrical Engineering (ISY). Professor Björnson researches wireless communication. This year is the first time he has been included on the list.

“It feels exciting, and is definitely a big step in my career. This kind of thing shows that you’ve really been a leader in an area. When I defended my PhD thesis, this was the most important article database, the one that everybody looked at to see who was on the rise.”

Dispel myths

Emil Björnson has 245 publications listed in the database. His numerous publications have been cited a grand total of 7950 times. His most cited publication is an article from 2016 that he co-authored with two colleagues. The article was intended to dispel myths around MIMO (multiple input multiple output) systems – the technology used to increase the speed of wireless data transfer, something that has been fundamental to the development of 5G networks.

“Five or six years ago, many were sceptical about MIMO. Lots of researchers believed that the technology wasn’t ready to be used, and others didn’t have any confidence in it at all. We originally conceived of the article as a kind of intervention in that debate, intended to clear up misunderstandings. We hoped that the subject would merely be of interest to people, and that they would be more convinced by the technology. Instead, it became a widely cited article and promoted our arguments within both academia and industry”, says Emil Björnson.

Professor Björnson is the principal author of the article, which was written together with professor and ISY colleague Erik G Larsson, who has also earned a place on Clarivate’s list – for the fourth time.

“It’s very exciting, of course. It’s a recognition of the impact our research has had. The fact that lots of people cite our research means that lots are following, getting inspired by and building on it. It’s an important confirmation of the fact that our work is leading and relevant.”

The other co-author was American researcher Thomas L Marzetta, who has also earned a place on the list.

Making an impact

Publishing research that has an impact can be very important for both individual researchers and higher education institutions. It improves the chances of receiving research grants and improves the university’s reputation. That’s why it’s important for researchers to communicate well about their research, according to Emil Björnson.

“It’s partly about being visionary, and partly about being lucky and getting an article published at the right time. It’s a good idea to practise writing in an accessible way, so that lots of people can understand and get interested in what you’re writing about”, says Professor Björnson. 

Another LiU researcher on the list is Gerhard Andersson, professor at the Department of Behavioural Sciences and Learning (IBL). This is the seventh year that Professor Andersson has been listed as one of the most-cited researchers in the world.

“I’m proud, of course, and grateful for the colleagues who I have both here in Sweden and internationally. It’s particularly exciting because there are relatively few Swedish researchers on the list, especially in psychology and psychiatry, which is my area.”

Internet treatment

Gerhard Andersson has been cited almost 30,000 times and has over 750 publications, the most cited of which is an article from 2009 about internet-based psychological treatment, something that Gerhard Andersson and his researcher colleagues were pioneers in 22 years ago.

“Other internet-based treatments have been introduced since then, not least of all in the Östergötland region, where you can get internet-based help with things like sleep problems and depression.”

Internet-based treatment for tinnitus, one of Gerhard Andersson’s specialist areas, was also introduced recently.

“Internet-based treatment is an area that’s expanded enormously”, he says. “The fact that people are paying attention to the work we’ve done shows that research makes a difference. Sweden is a small country, so it’s good, of course, that we’re visible in these contexts.”

Solar cells

The fourth LiU researcher who has earned a place on the list is Feng Gao, whose 212 publications have been cited 18,730 times. His most-cited article is about organic solar cells.

This year’s list includes 24 Nobel laureates, five of whom won their Nobel Prizes in 2021.

USA is the country most represented on the list, which in total comprises around 70 countries/regions. China is in second place and has almost doubled its share of highly cited researchers in the space of just four years. The UK is in third place, and Sweden in 19th.

The basis for the list is Web of Science, which Clarivate has used to analyse 21 different academic fields. An interdisciplinary category was also included. You can visit Clarivate’s website to search among the 6602 researchers on the list.


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