Thursday, 17 December 2020

600 Mining & Metallurgy researchers in the top 2% of the world's scientists

I have never been a great fan of ranking-lists, such as those comparing University departments around the world. Some are dubious to say the least, and are often biased.

Ranking individuals is usually subjective, but Stanford University in USA has provided a list of the Top 2% of Scientists in the world based on the number of citations of their research papers. This must have been a truly mammoth task, as there are around 160,000 scientists in the top 2%, representing all disciplines of science.

Although there is no human bias, such a list is also open to much scepticism. I have always tried to point out, for instance, that journals can only be judged on their impact factors by comparing like with like. Minerals Engineering, with a current impact factor of 3.795, is the leading journal in minerals processing and extractive metallurgy, but its impact factor cannot compare with a journal such as Nature Nanotechnology, which has an impact factor of 31.538. This is because minerals engineering is a relatively small field, so attracts far fewer citations than does Nature Nanotechnology, which publishes papers from a far great number of scientists, involved in what is one of the world's most intensively researched disciplines.  So it is not surprising that #1 in the list of Top Scientists is in the Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Group, and #2 is from the intensively researched and cited area of Epidemiology.

Another reason to be careful of the listing is that you won't see any child prodigies in there, as scientists build up their list of citations over the years, and the vast majority of the top 2% are older scientists whose citation records began last century.

So bearing in mind its limitations, it is impressive that 600 scientists in the field of Mining & Metallurgy are included in the world's elite.

At #1 in Mining & Metallurgy is Dr. Paul Cleary, a very familiar face at MEI and other major conferences around the world. A Chief Research Scientist at Australia's CSIRO Data61, he is a world-renowned expert on particle based modelling for industrial, geophysical and biophysical applications, including simulation of rock and slurry flow in mills. We were very privileged, therefore, to have Paul present a keynote lecture "Recent developments and future of modelling in mineral processing using particle methods" at Computational Modelling '19 in Falmouth last year. And only this week Paul agreed to present a keynote lecture "Progress towards the Virtual Comminution Machine" at MEI's first online conference Comminution '21.

Paul with Barbara and me in Leeds, 2019
Paul with young researchers at Comminution '12 in Cape Town

Prof. Jannie van Deventer is #2 in our field. Jannie was one of the longest serving members of the Minerals Engineering Editorial Board until he retired from the board a few years ago to concentrate on his position as CEO of the Zeobond Group, Australia, specialising in geopolymer concrete.  Prior to that he was a professor at the University of Stellenbosch for over 14 years, before moving to Australia and the University of Melbourne for 25 years, as Professor of Mineral and Process Engineering and then Honorary Professorial Fellow.
He has been a familiar face at international mineral processing conferences, where he often had outspoken and sometimes highly controversial views, no more so than in his presentation at MEI's Precious Metals '12, on 'invisible gold' which is not detected by standard analytical techniques (posting of 12 August 2013). This led to perhaps the most debated paper ever published in Minerals Engineering, with some extremely strong views for and against his arguments.
Jannie van Deventer (2nd right) in Falmouth 2011, with Barbara and me, Mauricio and Ana Torem
and Dean Eastbury of Elsevier

Number 3 in the list is one of the 20th century's great mineral processors, Prof. Doug Fuerstenau of the University of California-Berkeley. Doug turned 92 years of age early this month, and I had the pleasure of interviewing him for MEI in 2015. He is the only person to hold the IMPC's top awards, the Lifetime Achievement and Distinguished Service Awards.

Prof. Fuerstenau in Denver 2019, with Prof. Jan Miller of the University of Utah,
also one of the elite scientists

I am pleased to see three of MEI's conference consultants are in the top 2% of world scientists. Prof. Markus Reuter is co-Director of the Helmholtz Institute Freiberg for Resource Technology, Germany, and is a long time consultant for our sustainability conferences, including next year's Sustainable Minerals '21.

With Jens Gutzmer and Markus Reuter, co-directors of the HIF in 2019
Markus Reuter (centre) at SRCR'11, Falmouth with
Profs. Richard Williams and Jannie van Deventer

Prof. Sue Harrison, of the University of Cape Town, is also a long-serving MEI consultant, to our biotechnology conferences including next year's Biomining '21. She is pictured (left) below at Indaba '16 in Cape Town with me and her UCT colleague Prof. Dee Bradshaw. Dee was a long serving consultant to MEI on flotation. She sadly passed away in 2018, but it is good to see that she is in the list of the top 2% of the world's scientists. Dee and Sue are just two of the eight mineral processors from UCT's Chemical Engineering department who made it to the list (can any Institute better that?).

Two more of UCT's elite scientists are shown below, with Prof. Jim Finch of McGill University, Canada. On the left Prof. Cyril O'Connor, Chairman of the International Mineral Processing Council, congratulates Jim on organising a successful Congress in Quebec City in 2016. On the right our Flotation '13 consultant Prof. JP Franzidis, passes on the consultancy baton to Jim, who has worked with us for the past seven years, and will be our consultant and keynote speaker at Flotation '21. He was recently awarded the IMPC's Lifetime Achievement Award (posting of 26 November).

I am sorry that I cannot mention every one of the 600 minerals scientists on the list but if you would like to single out individuals of special merit, then I invite you to make use of the comments section on the blog. The more the better!



  1. I am happy to see the list, as you said"some of them belonging to our area of interest and getting mentioned in our MEI"".
    My hearty congratulations to all of them.
    With no other intention in my mind let me express my views on this "criteria"- I understand it is based on "impact factor"----
    I also noted your preliminary comments--I agree with you.
    Now the next question would be how to we compare "impact factor of publications in a given discipline with a "impact factor on practices in that field'--even an attempt in publishing such list in technology and practice may be the next attempt.
    Flotation was a major change; xanthate,Jamson cell, column flotation--and so on.
    I hope this would not be difficult if an attempt is made discipline wise and will be great incentive to link "what we publish" to "what we practice"--for me this is also needed along with what has been attempted--very good beginning and appreciated.
    in this age of computational tools I feel it would not be difficult if aim of science leads to good to industry and Society.
    My stray thoughts are to be taken in the way I am looking in this age of "freedom to express" which is rally need of the present for better future.

    1. Yes, I suppose you could call an individual's citations a personal Impact Factor, with all its associated faults such a dependency on the field that the researcher is working in. Take a look at the Most Cited Articles in Minerals Engineering for example, and you will see that articles in the dominant areas in our field, flotation and hydrometallurgy, receive the most citations, so it is not surprising that workers in these areas receive the most individual citations for their publications.

      As to splitting journal impact factors into specialist areas, I think (hope) that there is little chance of that ever happening.

  2. These kind of calibrated views ( but to the points you express(as you did now), on some very important "issues" make me feel proud of you and the contents of our Blogs; never censoring/ stooping to publish all views, even if they may be unpleasant to some (unless highly objectionable/with no names)--what I called "freedom pf speech".
    Tolerating and being too indifferent. inspire of knowing what is good to the profession/society,particularly from scientific/technology community across the world is to be shed.
    Keep it up, Barry.

  3. Barry, it is great to see so many familiar and respected researchers in the field of Mining & Metallurgy. The link allows direct download of the complete list as an MS Excel file.

    Hanna Horsch

    1. Thanks Hanna. Yes, it is good to see so many mineral processors in this listing, but I am still a bit wary of rankings such as this.

      I have no problem with World Rankings of golfers or tennis players, for instance, as they are all doing exactly the same thing, playing golf or tennis.

      But mineral processors are not all doing the same thing. Some may be involved with flotation or hydrometallurgy (highly cited), others with magnetic separation (not so highly cited). So there is a bias according to specialties.

      There is also the problem of age. I haven't analysed this, but it is a fair bet that there won't be that many scientists under 40 in the rankings, as the listing is on total citations received in the scientist's career, the longer the better.

      However, accepting these limitations, it is still good to see many familiar names in the rankings.

  4. I checked and based on those I knew, something around 12-15% of 600 were under 40.I guess, it is an acceptable number. I know these types of rankings have bias and gaps. However, to me it was encouraging, and energized me.

    Thank Barry for sharing it.

  5. At present Scientists and their work is more focussed towards citations and Impact factors.To search for this ISI web of science come out with all sorts of permutations and combinations. Several organizations are also exploiting the weakness on these lines and developing softwares to make it more appealing with facts and figures . As Prof Barry hinted that some papers are excellent and have shelf life for years and suddenly a top scientist in that study area cites that publication, other follow like a flock. Sometimes, good work will not even see the light of the day. Hence its very encouraging that Germany and other nations now promote most of scientists to publish in Open Access journals and could be reached by everybody. Here citations doesnt have any role to play.


If you have difficulty posting a comment, please email the comment to and I will submit on your behalf