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‘Mortality in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria’ was most mentioned scholarly work in 2018

By on December 13, 2018

SAN JUAN – A study on the death toll in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria and the spread of fake news online topped the articles in the Altmetric Top 100.The annual list by Altmetric, which develops software to analyze online activity around scholarly research, reveals the discussion generated by published works in public policy documents, the media, blogs, Wikipedia and social networks to “provide a more robust picture of the influence and reach of scholarly work,” according to the company.

The company said it tracked more than 25 million mentions “of 2.8 million research outputs.”

Altmetric spoke with Satchit Balsari, a co-author of the most discussed academic paper this year, who emphasized the importance of his team’s research on mortality rates following Hurricane Maria. The event is regarded as the worst natural disaster on record to affect Dominica and Puerto Rico.

“Colleagues from Puerto Rico were concerned that the official death counts seemed very low compared to what they were seeing in their communities, and reached out to us to see whether there was a way to help ascertain the mortality estimate.

“Given the large difference in our mortality estimates and the official counts, it was gratifying to see that the media played its role in efficiently translating a scientific paper for mass consumption,” Balsari said.

The paper is the most widely shared in the Altmetric Top 100’s six-year history.

“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,” Altmetric COO Catherine Williams said. “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 University of Cambridge had the most affiliated papers (10), while the journal Science featured more than any other (12 times).

The top 3 articles of 2018 are:

“Mortality in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria” (New England Journal of Medicine, July 2018), which was the most widely shared paper in the Altmetric Top 100’s six-year history.


“The spread of true and false news online” (Science, March 2018), which found that rumors spread much faster and further on Twitter than truth.


“Alcohol use and burden for 195 countries and territories, 1990–2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016” (The Lancet, September 2018), which reveals that the only “safe” level of alcohol consumption is no alcohol at all.


The highest ever Altmetric Attention Score is 11980 (as of November 29, 2018). The score belongs to an article titled, “How Diversity Works”, published in Scientific American in 2014.

Top 10 articles of 2018:

  1. Mortality in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria (New England Journal of Medicine, July 2018)
  2. The spread of true and false news online (Science, March 2018)
  3. Alcohol use and burden for 195 countries and territories, 1990–2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016 (The Lancet, September 2018)
  4. Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene (PNAS, August 2018)
  5. Association between physical exercise and mental health in 1·2 million individuals in the USA between 2011 and 2015: a cross-sectional study (The Lancet Psychiatry, September 2018)
  6. Dietary carbohydrate intake and mortality: a prospective cohort study and meta-analysis (The Lancet Public Health, September 2018)
  7. Evidence that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is rapidly accumulating plastic (Scientific Reports, March 2018)
  8. Complementary Medicine, Refusal of Conventional Cancer Therapy, and Survival Among Patients With Curable Cancers (JAMA Oncology, October 2018)
  9. Global warming transforms coral reef assemblages (Nature, April 2018)
  10. The biomass distribution on Earth (PNAS, May 2018)

See the 2018 Altmetric Top 100.

The list features papers published in 45 different journals, with the journal Science appearing more than any other single title (12 times).

Authors from the University of Cambridge appeared more than any other institution (10 papers). Other institutions that feature strongly in the list include Harvard University (9) and University of Oxford (8); non-university organizations include the United States National Institute on Aging (3) and Hennepin Healthcare (3).

Harvard survey: Some 4,600 may have died in Puerto Rico in aftermath of Hurricane Maria

Puerto Rico gov’t sticks to its commissioned report on hurricane deaths

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