Scientific excellence is an ongoing object of quantitative analysis of science and technology literature. The most commonly adopted of the various criteria for such quantification is to define highly cited papers as the ones lying in the first percentile (top 1%) of citation counts. Wagner and colleagues have recently proposed a new method in which citation counts are determined as a whole, irrespective of discipline. This study analyzes the practical implications of the new approach compared to the traditional procedure in which papers are ranked bearing in mind the scientific field involved, with particular attention to the consequences for rankings by country and discipline. The results show that the new methodology flatters countries with a predominance of polytechnical scientific production, technological development, and innovation and lowers the rank of countries where the social sciences, humanities, and basic research account for the lion’s share of output. An analysis of worldwide production confirms the growth of scientific output in technical and technological disciplines.

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Handling Editor: Vincent Larivière

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