How does Breast Cancer Now's research compare to the rest of the world? Research Officer Adele Richmond discusses how we ensure we fund the best research possible.

Thursday 21 April 2016      Research blog
Researcher in the lab

At Breast Cancer Now we enjoy few things more than telling our supporters about the incredible breakthroughs that come from our dedicated and passionate researchers, providing insight into new ways to prevent, detect and treat breast cancer.

But before we can tell the world about their achievements, our scientists take the important step of sharing their findings in scientific publications, so they can be read and referenced by other researchers and by clinicians.

Keeping track of all the excellent work our researchers do is hard work, but we’ve recently had the chance to see all that information in one place, and what we discovered was simply too good to keep to ourselves!

Putting our studies to the test

We recently commissioned a report from Thomson Reuters to look into every single published research paper from the hundreds of scientists we’ve supported over the years, from 1999 to 2014. They trawled through every scientific publication to show us how Breast Cancer Now’s research compares to work taking place across the rest of the world.

What they found confirmed what we’d always known - our researchers really are amazing.

Breast Cancer Now’s research has resulted in a staggering 2,442 scientific publications including articles, reviews, editorials, letters and other scientific documents which have been published in over 400 different journals (you can see a small selection of our scientists’ publications here).

This in itself is a huge achievement but the real test as to whether a piece of research has made an impact is whether or not other scientists are paying attention to it by citing it in their own work, and the prestige of the journal in which it’s published.

World-class research

The report shows that our research passes these tests with flying colours! Our average citation impact is more than double the world average and is well above the average for breast cancer research taking place in the UK.

Nearly a third of all our papers (28%) are considered “highly cited”, which means they are in the world’s top 10% of most cited papers in the relevant field and year. This compares well to the UK average for breast cancer research, where 20% of papers are considered highly cited.

Our high citation rates are linked to other measures of research quality, such as peer review. All our research is published in peer reviewed journals meaning that scientific experts review the work before it’s published to ensure it is accurate and credible.

Making an impact

Where our researchers publish also matters. One way to determine the quality of a scientific journal is through its impact factor. This is a number calculated using the citation rate for all articles published in that journal over the last couple of years, and gives an indication as to how influential a journal is within the scientific community.

The report revealed that almost half of our research is published in high impact journals, including the very prestigious Nature, Lancet and New England Journal of Medicine.

At Breast Cancer Now we pride ourselves on facilitating collaborations as we believe this will speed up both research itself and its dissemination, helping patients benefit from our research faster. Therefore we were delighted to see that over half of Breast Cancer Now’s publications in the last five years had an international co-author. This shows that the research we fund in the UK and Ireland has real international input and presence.

Our 2050 goal

So, next time you hear about some more great news coming from one of our labs, you can feel assured that your support has enabled some of the best research happening around the world right now – giving us the best possible chance of stopping women dying from breast cancer by 2050.

More information

Find out more about the key areas we focus our research on, or discover our current research projects.

About the author

Adele Richmond profile

Adele is a Research Officer in the Insight and Innovation Team.

She has a background in Public Health research, specifically designing and delivering ways to improve the uptake of both breast and cervical screening.

Within Breast Cancer Now she provides insight on the breast cancer research landscape and supports researcher engagement.