China has leapfrogged the UK to become home to the second largest number of highly cited researchers, according to Web of Science, who publish the annual list. The list identifies scientists who have authored multiple journal articles ranking in the top 1% of papers in their field, in terms of citations. The list’s compilers only consider papers published within the last decade.

85% of the researchers named on the list work at institutions in just 10 countries. Of the 6219 researchers appearing in the list, almost half (2737) are based in the US. Chinese institutions are the next biggest contributors, providing 636 researchers – a significant increase on the 482 China-based scientists named last year. 517 UK-based scientists appear on the list, while Germany and Australia (327 and 271 researchers, respectively) complete the top five contributing countries.

Harvard University is the top institute with 203 highly-cited researchers, putting it above Canada – whose 183 scientists put it at sixth on the list.

The highly cited list’s compilers say that it provides a ‘who’s who of influential researchers’, although they acknowledge that alternative methods for measuring the impact of scientists’ work ‘could generate a different—though likely overlapping—list of names’.

The use of citations as a metric for the significance of a scientist’s contributions is a contentious issue and studies have shown that the most highly-cited papers are not always the ones scientists consider to be the most important in their field.