Portsmouth academics feature in the list of 2018’s most discussed research

Two studies involving researchers from the University of Portsmouth feature in the Altmetric Top 100, released today.

The annual Altmetric Top 100 highlights research published in 2018 that has generated significant international online attention and discussion – from post-publication peer review sites and public policy documents to mainstream media, blogs, Wikipedia, and social media platforms.

Professor John McGeehan

In the past year, Altmetric has tracked over 25 million mentions of 2.8 million research outputs. The list is the top 100 most-mentioned scholarly articles published in the past year – those which have truly captured the public imagination.

A study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America in April, about engineering a newly discovered enzyme that can digest the kinds of single-use plastics used in drinks bottles, clothing, and carpets was ranked at 88th. The paper’s lead authors were postgraduate student Harry Austin and research scientist Mark Allen,   with other Portsmouth co-authors  Alan Thorne and Professor John McGeehan from the newly developing Centre for Enzyme Innovation.

There was significant global media coverage for the study, which could revolutionise recycling and prevent thousands of tonnes of non-biodegradable plastic waste clogging up landfill sites and the world’s oceans.

Professor McGeehan said: “With 21 authors, from 5 institutions in the UK, USA and Brazil, we are delighted to lead a paper that captured such wide attention. This demonstrates the global interest in the plastic problem and the value of international collaborations to develop innovative solutions.”

Serena Cunsolo

Evidence that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is rapidly accumulating plastic, which was published in Scientific Reports in March, was named as the seventh most mentioned article. Engineering PhD student Serena Cunsolo, was part of the Ocean Cleanup team, which provided vital evidence about the exponential rate at which plastic is accumulating in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP), located halfway between Hawaii and California and the largest accumulation zone for ocean plastics on Earth.  She is now looking at land-based sources of plastic pollution and how microplastics can be prevented from entering our rivers and oceans.

Serena said: “Knowing that our study ranks in the top ten sends a powerful signal about the increasing worldwide awareness on plastic pollution and its potential ecological implications. This motivates me further to investigate microplastic pollution on land and hopefully promote measures to drastically reduce its impact on the marine environment.”

Professor Bob Nichol, Acting Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation), said: “It is fantastic to see our researchers at the forefront of globally recognised research, which is helping to address the greatest challenges faced by society today. At Portsmouth, we are passionate about our research having impact and these works demonstrate that.”

This year’s Top 100 includes articles that touch on many topics, with a particular focus on themes such as the dire environmental consequences of climate change, links between mental health and physical fitness, and the spread of misinformation online.

“The Altmetric Top 100 continues to highlight an array of fascinating and diverse research that often relates to the broader cultural zeitgeist and the year’s most notable events,” said Catherine Williams, COO, Altmetric. “From climate change to misinformation and diets, the most widely shared and discussed research focuses on global challenges that affect us all. Encouragingly, the levels of attention we see here demonstrates that expert knowledge still plays a very central role in our shared understanding of these issues.”

This year’s list features papers published in 45 different journals. The journal Science featured more than any other (12 times).

View the full list at: https://www.altmetric.com/top100/2018/

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