Animal Behaviour Research

Publication Analysis 1999-2010
by Ralf Neumann, Labtimes 03/2012

Europe... ... and the World Most Cited Authors... ... and Papers

Most Cited Authors - Pictures

Foto: Diane Troppoli/Earthwatch Institute

England clearly dominates European animal behaviour research in terms of citations. However, Europe’s most-cited researcher of the field is a France-based Dane, followed by a Germany-based US-American.

In his 1964 essay “Biology, Molecular and Organismic” (American Zoologist vol. 4: 443-52), the Ukraine-born geneticist and evolutionary biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky for the first time, in a slight variation, used his later famous phrase, “Nothing in biology makes sense unless in the light of evolution”. The aim of his statement and the whole essay, at the time, was to assert the importance of organismic biology in response to the challenges being set by the rising field of molecular biology.

About two decades later a German neurogeneticist paraphrased Dobzhansky’s statement to read: “Nothing in neurobiology makes sense unless in the light of behavior”. The “Decade of the Brain” was just about to be announced – therefore, another reminder not to reduce biology too much to “brains only” seemed very appropriate.

Keep whole organisms in mind

In the context of an “animal behaviour research” analysis, one conclusion that can be drawn from this episode becomes particularly important: behavioural biology constitutes a kind of umbrella discipline, which not only but also serves to integrate (or even “make sense of”) the findings of many other life science disciplines. And these, of course, do not only include the neurosciences but also, for example, zoology, ecology and evolution, physiology, endocrinology, genetics, etc.

Given this fact, the most striking problem that is inherent in any publication analysis “animal behaviour research” should be obvious: Which papers and authors can be assigned to “animal behaviour research” with a clear conscience – and which not (see table, p. 36)? At least concerning the authors, the usual key criterion could be applied that a significant portion of their papers had to be published in the specialist animal behaviour journals. What still remained open had to be evaluated on a case-to-case basis.

Low performance by Spain and Italy

One more restriction had to be made when it came to comparing the publication outputs of the individual countries (see tables, p. 35). Regrettably, we had to exclude multidisciplinary journals such as Nature and Science from this part of the analysis since Thomson Reuters’ “Web of Science” citation database, which was used here, provides no tools to automatically extract relevant animal behaviour articles from these journals with sufficient reliability. Certainly, some of the most prominent papers in the field could thus not be included in this part of the analysis. Despite this methodological constraint, however, we nevertheless believe that the countries’ performances in the 35 expert journals listed for “animal behaviour research” indeed suffice to provide valid indicators for their overall productivity in the field between 1999 and 2010.

On the contrary, as for the rankings of the most-cited researchers and papers (see tables, p. 36) there were no such limitations. They could be analysed from publications in all journals.

Applying these directives, we find the “usual three” on top of the nations’ list when it comes to total citations – England, Germany and France. What’s rather different when compared to other life science disciplines, are the considerably large gaps between them. The papers, including at least one co-author from an English lab, altogether collected 36 % more citations than their German counterparts and even 53 % more than the French colleagues.

This remarkable performance, on the one hand, resulted from the fact that England had, over this period, produced the highest total number of articles in the animal behaviour expert journals – 3,500 versus 2,600 German and 2,100 French papers. On the other hand, however, those English articles were also cited more frequently on average, which, in terms of total citations, finally pushed them even further ahead.

In fact, England’s average of 18.5 citations per article proved to be the second-highest value of all European countries. A higher ratio was only obtained by their Scottish neighbours (18.8), which, at the same time, enabled them to climb up the “total citations-ladder” to fifth place. Similar high citations-per-article rates were achieved by The Netherlands, Switzerland (both 17.9) and Sweden (17.7), who thereby also ranked up high in the total citations list: 4th, 7th and 6th, respectively.

And who finally performed lower than usual when compared to other life science disciplines? Definitely Spain and Italy in 8th and 9th place, respectively, as well as Belgium (12th), Denmark (14th) and Israel (16th).

Some space for “outsiders”

Going global, the whole of Europe almost perfectly equalled the publication performance of their US colleagues (see yellow table): nearly equal total paper counts and almost identical average citation rates finally left them both with the same total number of almost 250,000 citations. Perhaps of further interest: in terms of total citations, Japan fell far behind its usual ranks and finally settled somewhere between Spain and Italy.

The lists of the most-cited authors and papers are, first of all, intended to indicate the hot topics in European animal behaviour research, for which the individual researchers stand. In this regard, one fact becomes immediately obvious: more than one-third of the thirty most-cited European animal behaviour researchers study birds – mainly their mating, feeding and breeding behaviour. Among them, four even made it into the “top ten” led by the Paris-based Dane Anders Pape Møller (1st) and Oxford ornithologist Ben Sheldon (6th).

The next “hot topic” is the broad field of social and even “cultural” behaviour, as represented, for example, by bee and ant specialists like Francis Ratnieks (13th), mammal experts like Tim Clutton-Brock (3rd), primate researchers like the Germany-based US-American Michael Tomasello (2nd) or “allrounders” like Stuart West (5th). Among those, Jens Krause (19th), who studies collective behaviour and swarm intelligence in fish, can be regarded as somewhat special.

Adding to them another couple of researchers pursuing behavioural questions in classical laboratory animals like Drosophila, rats and mice, there are still some “outsiders” left that made it into the “top 30” with more exotic subjects. Pilar Lopez (30th) and José Martin (29th) from Madrid, for example, whose study objects are lizards. Or Marcel Dicke (4th), who investigates how insect behaviour is affected by plant volatiles.

Which, incidentally, might give cause to next time think about widening the title of this analysis to “animal and plant behaviour research”...


Articles appearing between 1999 and 2010 in ‘animal behaviour journals’ as listed by SCImago and Thomson Reuters’ Web of Science. The citation numbers are accurate as of April 2012. A country’s figures are derived from articles, where at least one author working in the respective European nation is included in the authors’ list. Israel is included because it is a member of many European research organisations and programmes (EMBO, FP7 of the EU...).

Citations of articles published between 1999 and 2010 were recorded up until April 2012 using the Web of Science database from Thomson Reuters. The “most-cited papers” had correspondence addresses in Europe or Israel.


Country Citations Articles Cit./Art.
19.Czech Rep.2.66119413,7

... and the World

Citations Articles Cit./Art.
New Zealand6.61349713,3
South Africa6.27034918,0

Most Cited Authors...

Citations Articles
1.Anders Pape Møller, Lab Parasitol. Evol., CNRS, Univ. Paris9.987338
2.Michael Tomasello, Max Planck Inst. Evol. Anthropol. Leipzig7.829215
3.Tim H. Clutton-Brock, Large Anim. Res. Grp. Zool. Univ. Cambridge7.435155
4.Marcel Dicke, Entomol. Univ. Wageningen5.295167
5.Stuart A. West, Zool. Univ. Oxford5.232113
6.Ben C. Sheldon, Zool. Univ. Oxford4.793101
7.David W. MacDonald, Zool. Univ. Oxford4.403291
8.Henri Weimerskirch, Ctr. d’Etudes Biol. de Chizé, CNRS, Villiers en Bois4.260141
9.Josep Call, Max Planck Inst. Evol. Anthropol. Leipzig4.229125
10.Jacques Balthazart, Res. Grp. Behav. Neuroendocrinol. Univ. Liège3.771146
11.Jaap M. Koolhaas, Behav. Physiol. Univ. Groningen3.77094
12.Dennis Hasselquist, Mol. Ecol. & Evol. Lund Univ.3.749104
13.Francis J.W. Ratnieks, Lab. Apiculture & Social Insects Univ. Sussex3.534120
14.Andrew Whiten, Evol. & Dev. Psychol. Univ St. Andrews3.53366
15.Christophe Boesch, Max Planck Inst. Evol. Anthropol. Leipzig3.369102
16.Randolf Menzel, Neurobiol. Free Univ. Berlin3.13578
17.Göran Arnqvist, Anim. Ecol. Uppsala Univ.3.05562
18.Nicola Saino, Dept. Biol. Univ. Milan2.996100
19.Jens Krause, Leibniz-Inst. Freshwater Ecol. & Inland Fisheries Berlin2.90390
20.Graeme D. Ruxton, Biodiv. & Anim. Health Univ. Glasgow2.824213
21.Kevin N. Laland, Sch Biol. Univ. St. Andrews2.77768
22.Marcel Eens, Ethol Grp. Dep. Biol. Univ. Antwerp2.758157
23.Innes C. Cuthill, Sch. Biol. Sci. Univ. Bristol2.69680
24.Nicola S. Clayton, Exp. Psychol. Univ. Cambridge2.63079
25.Ton G.G. Groothuis, Ctr. Behav. & Neurosci. Univ. Groningen2.42176
26.Martin Heisenberg, Genet. & Neurobiol. Univ. Würzburg2.40545
27.Gabriele Sorci, BioGéoSciences Univ. de Bourgogne Dijon2.36068
28.Nigel R. Franks, Anim. Behav. & Ecol. Sch. Sci. Univ. Bristol2.34484
29.José Martín, CSIC Museo Nacl. Ciencias Nat. Madrid2.275138
30.Pilar Lopez, CSIC Museo Nacl. Ciencias Nat. Madrid2.274136

... and Papers

1.Whiten, A; Goodall, J; McGrew, WC; [...]; Tutin, CEG; Wrangham, RW; Boesch, C
Cultures in chimpanzees.
NATURE 399 (6737): 682-85 JUN 17 1999
2.Norris, K; Evans, MR
Ecological immunology: life history trade-offs and immune defense in birds.
3.Coulson, T; Catchpole, EA; Albon, SD; [...]; Clutton-Brock, TH; Crawley, MJ; Grenfell, BT
Age, sex, density, winter weather, and population crashes in Soay sheep.
SCIENCE 292 (5521): 1528-31 MAY 25 2001
4.Hare, B; Call, J; Agnetta, B; Tomasello, M
Chimpanzees know what conspecifics do and do not see.
ANIMAL BEHAVIOUR 59: 771-85 APR 2000
5.Couzin, ID; Krause, J; James, R; Ruxton, GD; Franks, NR
Collective memory and spatial sorting in animal groups.

Last Changed: 13.07.2012