That was the emotional sequence for some significant number of researchers around the world on Friday. In the space of several hours, they received word that they were among the scientific 1% — the most cited researchers on the planet — then learned that…well, they actually weren’t.
Here’s the letter — subject line, “Congratulations Highly Cited Researcher!” — and the retraction…erm, apology (click to enlarge):
The email even included a link to request a “Highly Cited Researchers 2016 Certificate.”
Clarivate Analytics, which recently acquired Thomson Reuters’ scientific division, would not provide Retraction Watch with a specific number, but said that
There were a number of people who received the letter in error. However, the number we should be focused on are the 3,265 Highly Cited Researchers (HCRs) for 2016 who are to be celebrated. Highly Cited Researchers derive from papers that are defined as those in the top 1% by citations for their field and publication year in the Web of Science. As leaders in the field of bibliometrics we appreciate the effort required to reach this achievement and celebrate those who have done so this year.
A number of the “lucky,” however, took to Twitter, using the #HighlyCited hashtag in a way that Clarivate hadn’t intended:
— Andrew McAdam (@McAdam_lab) November 18, 2016
First I received news that I was a #HighlyCited researcher.. then Thomson Reuters took it back 😂
— Sachia (@sachiaBIO) November 18, 2016
Now, we all make mistakes, and Clarivate seems to have owned up to this one quite quickly. In their words:
The error occurred internally with our email system. It was corrected quickly and we emailed apologies to those who received the incorrect email.
We take HCRs very seriously and since correcting this error, we are confident it won’t be repeated.
But this is the second year in a row that the “highly cited” list has had a rocky reception: One of 2015’s highly cited researchers was Bharat Aggarwal, who now has 18 retractions to his name.
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