Des Higgins Features in List of World's Most Influential Scientists

Written by: William Fitzmaurice
Written on: Tuesday, 01 July, 2014

Des Higgins, Professor of Bioinformatics at the UCD Conway Institute and Principal Investigator at Systems Biology Ireland, has been featured in Thomson Reuters’ list of the World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds 2014. Prof. Higgins is one of only eleven researchers based at Irish universities to feature on the list which is a compilation of highly cited influential names in science.

Deriving from InCites Essential Science Indicators, a subset of the Web of Science, the World's Most Influential Scientific Minds 2014 list presents more than 3,000 authors in 21 main fields of science and the social sciences. These researchers earned the distinction by writing the greatest numbers of reports officially designated by Essential Science Indicators as Highly Cited Papers-ranking among the top 1% most cited for their subject field and year of publication-between 2002 and 2012. Thus, the listings of Highly Cited Researchers feature authors whose published work in their specialty areas has consistently been judged by peers to be of particular significance and utility.

"It is quite bizarre," Prof. Higgins says of the citation game. "It is a measure of the impact of your work, though a crude and poor measure; but of course it's pleasing to see your work continue to have an influence and an honour to be bracketed with some big names from across the sciences."

Following completion of his PhD at Trinity College Dublin, Prof. Higgins worked as a staff scientist and group leader at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, Heidelberg, Germany. He has been working in the areas of bioinformatics and molecular evolution since 1985, predominantly on methods and software for DNA and protein sequence alignment. He first began developing solutions to the impracticality of sequence alignment while at Trinity College, Dublin, where he wrote a series of programs, called Clustal, which, have become the most widely used software for such analysis. He has continued to work on Clustal, developing new programs and improved interfaces. In the last year, his lab developed and released CLUSTAL Omega software which provides a new generation of alignment software scaled to cope with the enormous datasets that modern science can effortlessly generate. His research group in the UCD Conway Institute currently works on developing new bioinformatics and statistical tools for evolutionary biologists, the application of multivariate analysis of "omics" data, and addresses molecular evolutionary questions using bioinformatics approaches

Higgins has an international reputation in bioinformatics as an innovator, a leader, and a practical provider of working solutions to key problems. Since 2007, Higgins has been cited over 51,000 times (>94,000 since 1990) and has 10 papers with over 1,000 citations. This includes his famous CLUSTAL paper which is the 10th most cited paper of all time. In 2007, he was elected to the Royal Irish Academy.

Further information:

Thomson Reuters World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds 2014

Eleven researchers in Irish universities named among world’s top 3,000 Irish Times 1 July 2014

Most cited papers:

Higgins DG, Sharp PM (1988) CLUSTAL: a package for performing multiple sequence alignment on a microcomputer. Gene 73 (1)., 237–244

Thompson JD, Higgins DG and Gibson TJ (1994) CLUSTAL-W - Improving the sensitivity of progressive multiple sequence alignment through sequencing weighting, position-specific gap penalties and weight matrix choice. Nucleic Acids Research 22, 4673-4680