April 23, 2012

WMAP mission scores ‘world’s most cited’ in science pubs

All three of the most highly cited scientific papers in the world published in 2011 were from an astrophysics space mission project led by a Johns Hopkins scientist, according to Thomson Reuters’ ScienceWatch.

The papers cite results from the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe, a NASA spacecraft launched in 2001 that has revolutionized our knowledge of the history, composition and geometry of the universe. The WMAP mission is led by Charles L. Bennett, the Alumni Centennial Professor of Physics and Astronomy and Johns Hopkins Gilman Scholar in the Henry A. Rowland Department of Physics and Astronomy at The Johns Hopkins University.

ScienceWatch’s website notes: “Although the spacecraft has now gone silent at the end of its mission, rafts of scientists are poring over the accumulated data, including the seven-year observations released last year.”

WMAP determined the 13.7 billion–year age of the universe to within 1 percent, that atoms make up only 4.6 percent of the universe and that some kind of an anti-gravity energy makes up a whopping 73 percent of the universe. The 2003 WMAP results were named by Science magazine as the “breakthrough of the year.”

“It is astounding how far science has taken us. We are even able to rule out some proposed theories of what happened in the first trillionth of a trillionth of a second of the universe,” Bennett said. “Despite the many discoveries, many questions remain. I am confident that future measurements will reveal even more in the coming years.”

This is not the first time that WMAP results were among the most-cited scientific papers in the world across all scientific disciplines, not just in physics and astronomy. It also happened in 2003, 2007 and 2009. This time WMAP captured the first, second and third spots in the rankings in a single year—a science trifecta.

“These rankings are evidence of the great impact and reach of the Physics and Astronomy faculty here at Johns Hopkins,” said Daniel Reich, the department’s chair.

Bennett came to Johns Hopkins in 2005 from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, where he was a senior scientist for experimental cosmology. In 2010, his work on WMAP made him a co-winner of the prestigious Shaw Prize. He won the Comstock Prize in Physics in 2009, the Harvey Prize in 2006 and the Henry Draper Medal of the National Academy of Sciences in 2005. In 2006, he shared the Peter Gruber Foundation’s Cosmology Prize with Nobel laureate John Mather and the Cosmic Background Explorer team.

Bennett was elected to the National Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2004 and the National Academy of Sciences in 2005. He has received two NASA Exceptional Achievement medals and a NASA Outstanding Leadership medal.


Related websites


Charles L. Bennett

NASA’s WMAP site