UT Southwestern ranks among world's best in molecular biology, genetics research

DALLAS - March 10, 2003 - UT Southwestern Medical Center has been ranked among the nation's most elite research institutions because its faculty members published a large percentage of highly cited papers in molecular biology and genetics over the last decade, a leading science publication says.

When compared with the world's top research laboratories and hospitals, UT Southwestern ranked sixth overall - ahead of such noted institutions as Harvard University, Stanford University and the University of California, San Francisco - and first among the world's medical schools.

"Our work is highly cited because it breaks new ground in basic biology and medicine," said Nobel laureate Dr. Michael Brown, director of the Erik Jonsson Center for Research in Molecular Genetics and Human Disease at UT Southwestern. "The accolades that are now pouring in reflect years of painstaking effort by the faculty, the administration and the community of Dallas to recruit, train and retain the brightest minds in medical science. We should all be proud."

The rankings were compiled by Science Watch, an independent publication that reports on trends and performances in basic research. The rankings highlight the percentage of "superstar" papers universities and laboratories published from 1992 through 2002.

"Papers in molecular biology and genetics from UT Southwestern show a discernible tendency to rank among the citation elite," said Christopher King, editor of Science Watch. "These figures demonstrate that, over the last decade, the scientific community has judged a significant proportion of published work from UT Southwestern to be uncommonly valuable and useful to ongoing research in the field."

A highly cited, or superstar, paper is one that ranks in the top 1 percent by number of citations for papers in the same field and in the same year, according to Science Watch.

UT Southwestern had 4.18 percent of its papers qualify as highly cited. Harvard's rate of superstar papers, in comparison, was 4.01 percent and Stanford's was 3.79 percent.

Dr. Eric Olson, chairman of molecular, believes there are three reasons why UT Southwestern has emerged as a scientific powerhouse.

"First, there is a tradition of scientific excellence, leadership and camaraderie at this school that has perpetuated itself over several decades," said Olson. "This special environment has attracted and retained the best and the brightest. Second, there has been a commitment of resources and space to basic scientists that is unmatched by other schools.  Finally, there is a 'prairie spirit' here that attracts a certain breed of scientists who want to create something special and different from the traditional academic institutions on the two coasts."

As part of the study, Science Watch identified institutions whose total number of published papers in molecular biology and genetics collectively garnered 50,000 citations or more during the 10-year period. Thirty-seven institutions met the criteria.

In that category, UT Southwestern ranked 18th with 73,289 citations. That breakdown, however, favors schools and laboratories with the most researchers and publications - not necessarily the most influential research.

When analyzed for the percentage of papers that are highly cited (other researchers cite them in their work), the five research institutions ahead of UT Southwestern are the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York, Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif., Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

"This No. 1 ranking among medical schools adds external confirmation to something that everyone at UT Southwestern already knows: We are one exciting place for biomedical research," said Brown.


Media Contact: Steve O'Brien