CORVALLIS, Ore. — A paper published last December by an Oregon State University scientist became one of the mostly widely shared science papers since 2011, according to the science communications company Altmetric, and has inspired private contributions to support further research.
An international team led by William Ripple, distinguished professor in the College of Forestry at Oregon State, published “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice” in the journal BioScience. The paper warned that environmental trends in categories such as marine fisheries, population growth, deforestation, wildlife abundance and climate change raise the likelihood of “widespread misery and catastrophic biodioversity loss” in the future.
According to data collected by Altmetric, the paper was ranked No. 6 out of more than 9 million publications tracked by the company since it began monitoring in 2011. Additionally, the Oregon State paper is currently ranked No. 1 among more than 250,000 papers published within six weeks before and after the publication date, according to the company’s website.
Altmetric collects data from news websites and social media outlets such as Twitter and YouTube. The monitoring data complement traditional assessments of the impact of scientific papers, which rely on the prominence of the journal and the number of times they are cited by researchers in subsequent publications.
Because Altmetric compiles annual data in November, just as the Oregon State paper was being published online, the publication does not appear in its top-100 ranking for 2017.
“We were surprised by the Altmetric numbers,” said Ripple. “Our goal was to start a conversation about the threats to the planet and to human well-being. It looks like we succeeded.”
The paper was co-signed by 15,364 scientists from 184 countries prior to publication, and more than 5,000 more scientists added their signatures after the paper appeared. It has been read into the legislative proceedings of the Knesset in Israel and the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia.
News media reports about the paper appeared in more than 384 outlets around the world and led to comments and a reply published in the January issue of BioScience. The paper inspired more than 100 YouTube videos produced by individuals and educational and news organizations. It has been tweeted more than 8,000 times reaching up to 14,000,000 Twitter followers.
The paper also generated a $50,000 financial contribution to Oregon State in support of Ripple’s research from attorney, brewery owner and hop merchant Roger Worthington, who grew up in Corvallis. His nonprofit organization, the Worthy Garden Club, is based in Bend and focuses on expanding science based knowledge to the general public by highlighting and supporting impactful research.
“The Worthy Garden Club appreciates Dr. Ripple’s initiative to study and raise awarness about our impacts on Mother Nature,” said Worthington. “Basic and applied research are critical to our understanding, but we are quickly approaching the point of no return. The time for action is now.”
Ripple has formed an organization, the Alliance of World Scientists, to further the work of the team that published the World Scientists’ Warning. Additional donations to Oregon State have been received to advance its work. As a scientific organization, Ripple said, the AWS intends to leverage objective expertise to support policymakers and the public in reversing negative global environmental trends.
Note: A list of scientists who signed the papers is available at http://scientistswarning.forestry.oregonstate.edu. The authors welcome signatures from more scientists.
About the OSU College of Forestry: For a century, the College of Forestry has been a world class center of teaching, learning and research. It offers graduate and undergraduate degree programs in sustaining ecosystems, managing forests and manufacturing wood products; conducts basic and applied research on the nature and use of forests; and operates more than 15,000 acres of college forests.