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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

Six at URI among world’s most highly cited researchers

Media Contact: Todd McLeish, 401-874-7892

KINGSTON, R.I. -- March 10, 2004 -- An analysis of 19 million published research papers by 5 million authors over a 20-year period has found that six researchers at the University of Rhode Island are among the most highly cited scientists in the world.

"The true impact of a researcher’s science can be evaluated by how often their papers are cited by other researchers," said Jeff Seemann, dean of the URI College of the Environment and Life Sciences, who is among the 250 most-cited researchers in the area of plant and animal sciences. "I’m pleased that my colleagues have felt my work is important."

A resident of Saunderstown, Seemann is an internationally known plant biologist who has made significant contributions to understanding the process of photosynthesis. His latest research used functional genomics to study the impact of rising atmospheric carbon dioxide on the biochemistry and molecular biology of plants.

Other URI researchers identified as among the 250 most highly cited in their fields are James Prochaska and Wayne Velicer in psychology; Jean-Guy Schilling in geosciences; John Sieburth in plant and animal science; and Steven Kay in engineering.

"To have six people on this list from the University of Rhode Island is a remarkable performance," said Velicer. " Short of a Nobel Prize, there is nothing I can think up that is as important a recognition of my work as making the impact rating list. This is an empirically based recognition rather than the result of self promotion and it includes everyone in the world, not just U.S. scholars."

Prochaska and Velicer, both of South Kingstown, are professors of psychology and co-directors of the URI Cancer Prevention Research Center. They created a model for the stages of behavior change that is recognized internationally as one of the most promising approaches to health promotion. The model has had great success in helping people quit smoking, develop healthy eating habits, and make other lifestyle changes to prevent cancer and other diseases.

Velicer was also recognized for his research on behavioral statistics, while Prochaska has also had a considerable impact in the area of psychotherapy.

Schilling, a retired professor of oceanography from Jamestown, studies the geochemistry of the oceanic crust and the Earth’s mantle. He received the prestigious Maurice Ewing Medal from the American Geophysical Union in 1995 for his lasting impact on the understanding of the geophysical and geochemical processes of the formation of the ocean floor and the evolution of the Earth's mantle.

A retired professor of oceanography from West Kingston, Sieburth’s research focused on anaerobic processes in oxygenated water columns. He demonstrated that the microorganisms that mediate these processes actually create the oxygen-free microhabitats necessary for the processes. In 1978, he developed a system of size classifications for plankton that is still widely used today.

Kay is a professor of electrical engineering from Middletown who conducts research in mathematical statistics with applications to digital signal processing. This includes the theory of detection, estimation, time series, and spectral analysis with applications to radar, sonar, communications, image processing, speech processing, biomedical signal processing, vibration, and financial data analysis.

URI has the second highest number of researchers on the list among public universities in New England. The University of Massachusetts has 15 scientists listed, while the University of Connecticut and University of New Hampshire have four each, the University of Vermont has two, and the University of Maine has none.

The list of highly cited researchers was established by the Institute for Scientific Information, which has indexed scholarly literature for more than 40 years. The institute analyzed published research papers between 1981 and 1999 to reflect the most important researchers from the last two decades. The complete list of 4,800 researchers in 21 disciplines -- representing less than one half of one percent of the total published researchers in the time period -- is available at