UC San Diego Ranks 7th in the World for Most Influential Researchers

6 Mins read
Portrait of Josh Graff Zivin with an aerial view of UC San Diego campus in the background
Joshua Graff Zivin was honored by Clarivate as a highly cited researcher in 2023. Only 41 scholars in economics and business across the entire profession made the list this year.

By Debra Bass | UC San Diego Today

The University of California San Diego has the highest number of influential voices in the University of California system and ranks 7th highest among universities worldwide, according to Clarivate’s 2023 Highly Cited Researchers (HCR) list.

UC San Diego has 71 researchers included on the list in disciplines ranging from neuroscience to economics.

“UC San Diego’s recognition as No. 1 for most highly cited researchers within the University of California—and No. 7 in the world—are prestigious honors highlighting the broad impact and influence of UC San Diego in the global research community,” said Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla. “Our world-renowned faculty and researchers are advancing human knowledge, and their groundbreaking, multidisciplinary research addresses many of society’s most pressing challenges. These scholarly achievements demonstrate that UC San Diego is a powerhouse public research institution and a proven leader in world-changing research.” 

The UC system of 10 campuses is once again the global leader for influential researchers, including 317 faculty and scientists named among the top 1 percent in their respective fields.  

UC San Diego was the only institution in the UC system included in the top 10. Three other UC campuses were listed among the top 50 global institutions recognized by Clarivate: 

  • UC San Diego, No. 7 (71 HCR)
  • UC San Francisco, No. 11 (58 HCR) 
  • UC Berkeley, No. 15 (52 HCR) 
  • UCLA, No. 20 (45 HCR)

“Our world-renowned faculty and researchers are advancing human knowledge, and their groundbreaking, multidisciplinary research addresses many of society’s most pressing challenges.”

Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla

Moving up

Founded in 1960, UC San Diego is the youngest institution named among the top 10 in the Clarivate rankings. Most of the other institutions included in the top 10 are over 100 years old.

When Clarivate started the listing in 2014,  less than 30 UC San Diego scientists and faculty were included. This year’s ranking marks a gain from last year, when UC San Diego ranked 8th on the list. It also continues a year of milestones for the university—which spent a record $1.76 billion on research in fiscal 2023, up 6% from the previous year and 74% over the past decade.

Despite its young age, UC San Diego has long been designated among the top research universities globally. The institution was ranked 21st in the world for scientific impact by the 2022 Nature Index and ranked 4th among public universities in the United States in the 2023 Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU) rankings, rising one spot from the previous year. The university also jumped two spots to 19th in the world in the latest edition of the annual ranking released by ShanghaiRanking Consultancy.

The university’s transdisciplinary and quickly growing research enterprise has fostered a robust innovation ecosystem, leading to the creation of more than 1,000 startups since the university’s founding in 1960. University startups have raised more than $4 billion in capital since 2012. Several of the faculty on the 2023 Clarivate list are among the entrepreneurs helping to create these successful startups.

Generating solutions

“It is no coincidence that many of UC San Diego’s highly cited researchers are also highly successful entrepreneurs, spinning off companies that translate their research into real-world solutions, from custom prosthetics to sustainable consumer products,” said Vice Chancellor of Research and Innovation Corinne Peek-Asa. “The university supports a robust innovation portfolio that includes more than a dozen incubators, marketing experts and entrepreneurial mentorship.” 

Sheng Xu, a highly cited professor of nanoengineering at UC San Diego, for example, co-founded a company called Softsonics with engineer Shu Xiang. Their research and the company aim to reduce the complexity and burden of echocardiograms, an ultrasound examination for the heart. 

Current models for such examinations require highly trained technicians and bulky devices, but their emerging technology would enable anyone to use ultrasound imaging on the go—even during a workout. Real-time cardiac image monitoring would optimize and reshape the paradigm of cardiac diagnoses in a world where heart disease rates are escalating. 

UC San Diego Professor of Medicine Bernd Schnabl, also named a highly cited researcher by Clarivate, founded a company called Nterica Bio, Inc. that employs biotechnology to address alcoholic liver disease with a personalized precision medicine approach. 

And serial entrepreneur Gene Yeo’s latest company, Locana, has pioneered an approach that reverses disease in laboratory models by correcting problematic RNA. The work has investors and research colleagues buzzing about the potential impact on research trials and the untapped potential to reverse disease in humans one day. Yeo is a professor of cellular and molecular medicine at UC San Diego.

By virtue of this recognition, everyone on the Clarivate list is a standout in their field, but a few names were standouts in multiple fields.

Standouts among standouts

Fourteen researchers in the UC system received the highly cited designation in multiple categories, including UC San Diego’s Rob Knight, director of the Center for Microbiome Innovation and a professor of pediatrics, bioengineering and computer science and engineering, who received three designations. Knight was among only 26 researchers in the world to be highly cited in three or more categories. 

Knight was also named a 2023 Citation Laureate, for computational and experimental research revealing the complex microbial ecosystems of the human body. Only two other professors in the UC system were named citation laureates, both in economics at UC Berkeley. All three are notable for producing research papers that were subsequently cited over 2,000 times. 

According to Clarivate: “Research papers that have been cited more than 2,000 times are rarities, representing a small proportion of overall publications. An exceptionally high citation record is a mark of a researcher’s community-wide influence. It is an acknowledgment of their important foundational work, on which they and others are building further research.”

Two other faculty members distinguished themselves in multiple fields, each meriting high citations in two areas: Daniel McDonald, in microbiology, and biology and biochemistry; and William J. Sandborn, in clinical medicine, and pharmacology and toxicology. Please see the adjacent full list of UC San Diego Highly Cited Researchers.

This year, 7,125 Highly Cited Researchers designations were issued to 6,849 individuals. The number of awards exceeds the number of unique individuals because some researchers, like Knight, are recognized in more than one field of research.

The company said the selected scholars ranked in the top 1 percent in their respective fields over the past decade based on citation records.

The Highly Cited Researchers list is significant for many reasons, including the fact that it is one of six indicators used to evaluate The Academic Ranking of World Universities, in which UC San Diego was ranked 4th in the nation in 2023.  Other criteria include the number of alumni and staff winning Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals; the number of articles published in the journals Nature and Science; the number of articles indexed in the Science Citation Index – Expanded and Social Sciences Citation Index; and per capita performance.

Related Articles

2023: San Diego Union-Tribune: Sorry, Oxford and Yale. When it comes to influential scientists, you lag far behind UC San Diego, a relative newcomer.

2023: Jacobs School Researchers Named Most Highly Cited in the World

2022: UC San Diego Ranked 8th Globally for Most Influential Researchers

2021: 51 UC San Diego Researchers among Most Highly Cited in World in 2021 Clarivate Listing

2020: 52 UC San Diego Researchers Are Named Highly Cited in 2020 Listing

2019: 52 UC San Diego Researchers Are Most Highly Cited in Their Fields

2018: 46 UC San Diego Faculty Named Most Influential in Their Fields

2017: 32 UC San Diego Professors Named Most Influential in Their Fields

2016: UC San Diego Researchers Cited Among “World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds” 


Note: Researchers with a “Cross Field” designation, qualify based on the sum of their highly cited papers in multiple fields but did not pass the threshold for one particular field. An asterisk (*) denotes researchers who are also among inventors and innovators on campus who have launched companies based on the outcome of their research.

This list was supplied by Clarivate for 2023 and may include faculty who were at UC San Diego during the accounting but have since relocated.

*Rob Knight (3)

  • Biology and Biochemistry
  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology and Genetics

Daniel McDonald (2)

  • Biology and Biochemistry
  • Microbiology

William J. Sandborn (2) 

  • Clinical Medicine
  • Pharmacology and Toxicology

Gregory A. Aarons, Social Sciences

Gail Ackermann, Cross-field

Ludmil B. Alexandrov, Molecular Biology and Genetics

Amnon Amir, Microbiology

David Brenner, Cross-field

Don W. Cleveland, Neuroscience and Behavior

Richard Daneman, Cross-field

Justine Debelius,  Cross-field

Pieter C. Dorrestein, Biology and Biochemistry

Mark H. Ellisman, Cross-field

Mark Estelle, Cross-field

Ronnie H. Fang, Cross-field

M. M. Fogler, Cross-field

Jack A. Gilbert, Microbiology

Christopher K. Glass, Molecular Biology and Genetics

Uri Gneezy, Economics and Business

Antonio González, Microbiology

Joshua Graff Zivin, Economics and Business

Kun-Liang Guan, Molecular Biology and Genetics

Gordon H. Hanson, Economics and Business

Catherine C. Hedrick, Cross-field

Embriette R. Hyde, Microbiology

Trey Ideker, Cross-field

Dilip V. Jeste, Cross-field

Michael Karin, Cross-field

Dusan Keres, Space Science

Thomas J. Kipps, Clinical Medicine

Razelle Kurzrock, Clinical Medicine

Nathan E. Lewis, Cross-field

Yang Li, Cross-field

Irene Litvan, Neuroscience and Behavior

Haodong Liu, Cross-field

Rohit Loomba, Clinical Medicine

Prashant Mali, Biology and Biochemistry

*Ying Shirley Meng, Cross-field

Siavash Mirarab, Cross-field

James T. Morton, Microbiology

Jose A. Navas-Molina, Cross-field

*Jerrold M. Olefsky, Cross-field

Shyue Ping Ong, Cross-field

Bernhard O. Palsson, Cross-field

Allen Pei, Cross-field

Pavel A. Pevzner, Biology and Biochemistry

Bing Ren, Molecular Biology and Genetics

Jon Sanders, Cross-field

*Bernd Schnabl, Cross-field

Julian I. Schroeder, Plant and Animal Science

Claude B. Sirlin, Clinical Medicine

Davey M. Smith, Cross-field

Se Jin Song, Cross-field

Luke R. Thompson, Cross-field

Yoshiki Vazquez-Baeza, Cross-field

Chong Wang, Cross-field

Joseph Wang, Chemistry

Joseph L. Witztum, Cross-field

Shang-Ping Xie, Cross-field

*Sheng Xu, Cross-field

*Gene W. Yeo, Cross-field 

*Liangfang Zhang, Pharmacology and Toxicology

Minghao Zhang, Cross-field

Yunde Zhao, Plant and Animal Science

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