by Shelia Hoar Zahm, Sc.D.
Assessing the contributions of someone’s scientific work is a complex process that strives to quantify the scientific, clinical, or public health significance of his or her publications. Such an evaluation reflects the investigator’s demonstration of leadership in the field; the mentoring and training of junior scientists; and the development of resources, technologies, and methodologies that galvanize research by other scientists. Several indices have been developed as benchmarks to estimate the overall impact of a scientist’s work. The two most commonly used are the Thomson Reuters Web of Knowledge Science Citation Index (SCI) and the h-index. The SCI indicates the number of articles that have cited a given publication, whereas the h-index estimates a scientist’s cumulative contribution by expressing the number of articles (h) that have received at least h citations. By any of these measures, the contributions of Joseph F. Fraumeni, Jr., M.D., are remarkable.
Based on an analysis conducted in August 2012, Dr. Fraumeni had more than 860 publications with more than 60,000 citations in the Web of Knowledge database; he also had an almost unheard of h-index of 121. Dr. Fraumeni’s top-cited publications include articles on Li-Fraumeni syndrome and the Wilms tumor-aniridia syndrome; the racial and geographic variation of cancer in the United States and internationally; the rising incidence of several cancers, including adenocarcinoma of the esophagus, gastric cardia, and kidney; studies of cancer risk among various immunosuppressed populations, including organ transplant recipients; the role of smokeless tobacco and alcohol in oral and pharyngeal cancer; the relationship between herbicide exposures and non-Hodgkin lymphoma; the impact of nutritional and antibiotic interventions on esophageal and gastric cancer in high-risk populations in China; the role of indoor air pollution in the high rates of lung cancer in China; and genome-wide association studies of breast, prostate, and several other cancers. Figure 1, showing the annual number of citations of publications that Dr. Fraumeni has written, demonstrates that his scientific impact shows no signs of waning.