Australian medical research institute ranked number one in the world for research impact

A new international report on the impact of scientific research has named Sydney’s George Institute for Global Health as the organisation whose publications have had the greatest recent worldwide impact.

The 2011 report from the independent European agency, SCImago, ranked more than 3,000 research institutions on the basis of scientific publications from 2005-2009.

The George Institute was ranked number one in a field largely dominated by North American institutions. No other Australian institution ranked in the top 50.

Principal Directors of The George Institute, Professor Stephen MacMahon and Professor Robyn Norton said the result reflected the Institute’s long-established commitment to conducting research designed specifically to address major global health challenges.

“It is extremely gratifying to receive independent confirmation that we are delivering on our promise to provide evidence that will have an impact on the health of millions of people worldwide,” Professor MacMahon said.

“We have deliberately targeted health issues facing the world’s largest populations, as well as those affecting Australians. Our approach has been to develop and evaluate pragmatic solutions for common serious conditions ranging from injuries in children to strokes in older people,” Professor Norton said.

Professor MacMahon said the report showed the Institute was punching above its weight, not only in terms of impact, but also in terms of the quality of its publications and the extent of its collaboration with partners around the world.

“While we are still a small research institution by American or European standards, our ranking shows that by single-mindedly focussing on health issues of greatest global concern we can compete with much larger institutions with bigger budgets and larger research outputs”, he said.

The Institute was established in 1999 in partnership with the University of Sydney.  Since then it has expanded to China, India and the UK, where it has established joint research centres with world-leading universities including the University of Oxford.

“A key goal of the Institute’s next phase of development is to generate evidence that will improve essential healthcare for people living in disadvantaged circumstances, whether in Australia, Asia or Europe.  We already know a great deal about how to prevent and treat the most common serious conditions, but we need to figure out how to deliver this reliably at affordable prices to marginalised populations that generally suffer the greatest burden of ill health”, Professor Norton said.

“Our research is specifically designed to provide key decision makers with robust evidence with which they can formulate policies and priorities to produce real change in health outcomes across all socio-economic groups and not just among the wealthy,” she said.

Professor MacMahon added that the Institute was committed to exploring new ways of delivering essential healthcare utilising novel technologies and alternative workforces.

“We believe that the rapid increase in Internet access, even in the most remote regions of the world, will facilitate the growth of computer-guided healthcare, which has the potential to transform health services for many disadvantaged populations.  Information technology may prove to be the penicillin of the 21st century”, he said.

Editor’s Notes: A pdf copy of the SCImago report can be downloaded here. The report uses “Normalized Impact Values” to compare research institutions on the basis of research publication impact over a common time period.  This ranking method was developed by Sweden’s Karolinska Intitutet, which awards the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Further information on the ranking method is availble here.