1 March 2010
To the Editors, Like many with an interest in the field of Alzheimer’s disease I was intrigued to read the recent paper in JAD which purported to report the ‘scientific productivity and impact of the top 100 investigators in the field’ . As an outsider to the study of ‘scientometrics’ it appeared a thorough piece of work though there were few indications as to its actual aims. If ‘productivity and impact’ are purely numerical indices then the study has succeeded in informing us whom has published the largest number of papers on Alzheimer’s disease and how often this body of papers has been cited. Perhaps of equal importance to the recognition of the ‘top’ 100 investigators in Alzheimer’s disease the study has also informed as to the areas of Alzheimer’s disease research which have received the largest research effort.
While I am sure that these data will now be used in myriad ways to support the significance of both individuals and research areas they should not be allowed to distract us from the stark realities of Alzheimer’s disease itself. By which I mean that in spite of the ‘scientific productivity and impact’ of these ‘top’ 100 invesitigators; (i) we still do not know the cause of Alzheimer’s disease, (ii) there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, (iii) there are no truly effective treatments for Alzheimer’s disease. While we can all argue around the ‘edges’ of each of these statements we all know that they are basically correct and that we remain some distance away from offering individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease the kind of hope that does exist for other common fatal diseases such as cancer and heart disease.
I have a vain hope that we might look at this scientometric exercise and, in particular, what it tells us about the scientific areas where the vast majority of this research has been carried out and conclude that, for a limited amount of research funding, we are putting too much effort into these areas. The very heavy emphasis upon beta amyloid and tau as prime research targets in elucidating the cause of Alzheimer’s disease, while having revealed much of great interest and fascination, has not been successful in combating or treating the disease. I do not advocate stopping these lines of enquiry only that they should not be followed at the expense of other possibilities. The paper by Sorensen demonstrates that not only is AD research completely dominated by these subjects but that there is little chance that this will change while the most influential researchers in the field continue to support such studies. If you are one of the ‘top’100 identified in Sorensen’s paper then your ‘productivity and impact’ to-date in Alzheimer’s disease is, upon application of Occam’s razor, purely academic. You should be congratulated on this but you must now use your influence to look beyond the research of the past 40 years to the research of the future 40 years such that in time, and hopefully soon, we will be able to offer hope to the burgeoning numbers of individuals diagnosed with AD.
Christopher Exley PhD
Reader in Bioinorganic Chemistry
The Birchall Centre, Lennard-Jones Laboratories,
Keele University, Staffordshire, ST5 5BG, UK
Tel: 44 1782 734080; Email: email@example.com
Honorary Professor, UHI Millennium Institute
 Sorensen AA (2009) Alzheimer’s disease research: Scientific productivity and impact of the top 100 investigators in the field. J Alzheimers Dis 16, 451-465.