The careers behind and the impact of solo author articles in Nature and Science

  • Adam EmmerEmail author


Nature and Science—the top ranked, high impact multidisciplinary scientific journals with considerably low acceptance rate below 10%. As such, publication in these is considered to be a “Holy Grail” in disseminating ground-breaking scientific results. With marginal and permanently decreasing share, solo author articles (SAAs) represent rare category among these. Here I show what careers are behind the 334 SAAs published between 2003 and 2017, what is their impact and the relationship between the impact and careers behind. Obtained results indicate that the careers behind the SAAs vary from early to mature stages, confirming the role of researchers in different career stages in dynamics of science, even on the very top level. Geographical distribution is more unbalanced—the authors from the USA unambiguously dominated in production of SAAs (64.07%) among 28 countries involved and the authors affiliated with Harvard University among 195 institutions (4.49%). While Ecology represent the most frequent main WOS category of the authors among the SAAs published in Science (10.6%), Geochemistry Geophysics lead in Nature (14.4%). High variability is observed also in the impact of SAAs, represented by obtained citations per year, in relation to the individual research areas (WOS categories) as well as to the stages of authors’ careers represented by four quantitative characteristics. Despite the highly cited SAAs (> 1000 cit.; > 100 cit./year) were exclusively published by the authors previously experienced with publishing in Nature/Science, the entire dataset indicates that no clear relationship exists between juvenility or maturity of authors’ careers and the impact of published SAAs, leading to the conjecture that the impact might rather be controlled by specific article related factors such as quality, novelty and the interest of the subject.


Publishing behaviour Solo author articles Career-impact relationship Multidisciplinary sciences Nature Science Web of science 



I thank Jakub Zelený and other attendees of Café V Jirchářích for fruitful discussion inspiring me to write this paper, further I’m grateful to the anonymous reviewer for insightful comments and suggestions. This work was supported by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports of the Czech Republic within the National Sustainability Programme I (NPU I), Grant No. LO1415.


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Copyright information

© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, Hungary 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Global Change Research InstituteThe Czech Academy of SciencesBrnoCzech Republic

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