Science Figures Interpreted and Analyzed by RealClearScience
Last year, Karin Frick and Detlef Guertler of the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute and Peter Gloor of MIT compiled a list of the top global thought leaders of 2012, thinkers who are shaping current discourse on the present and future states of business and society. Richard Florida, an American urban studies theorist who formed the socioeconomic concept of the Creative Class, topped the first list.
For 2013's rankings, the researchers used Coolhunting software from the company Galaxyadvisors, which tallies the frequency and relevance of citations to assess leaders' influence. The software scoured the blogosphere, comprising writing and videos from sources like TED and YouTube, and Wikipedia entries. Influence indicators were calculated and subsequently averaged into an influence rank, with any ties broken by the number of Google Scholar hits. And now -- drum roll, please -- the top global thought leader of 2013 was...
Even the researchers seemed somewhat surprised.
"With all due respect to the former US vice-president, Oscar winner and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, this is arguably due not so much to the originality of his thought, but instead to his ability to popularise ideas and build bridges between science, politics and society."
Gore's accomplishments are still noteworthy, of course, and apparently have people buzzing. Unlike last year, which didn't really have a clear number one, Gore dominated the competition, scoring ahead of his colleagues on both Wikipedia and in the blogosphere. The former vice president is best known for his work to galvanize the world to take action to stem global climate change.
No rankings of this nature are perfect or completely objective. While the researchers' methods are fairly comprehensive, the biggest drawback of their rankings comes even before they are calculated. Coolhunting software is a network analyzer, and any network first needs nodes. The authors themselves compiled the starting list of 216 thinkers for analysis, defining thought leaders as people "who exercise influence primarily through their words as opposed to their actions." With such an ambiguous definition, many potentials were left out.
"The speculator George Soros is in, because he is also heavily involved in the social debate, while the speculator Warren Buffett is out, because he cares for little else except making money. For us, great journalists like Malcolm Gladwell or Frank Schirrmacher belong to the thinkers, whereas the investigative journalists Julian Assange or Glenn Greenwald do not," the authors explained.
Americans dominated the list. 43 of the top 100 thought leaders were U.S. citizens. Women accounted for 16% of the top 100. Notable thinkers from the realm of science who cracked the top 100 include psychologist Philip Zimbardo (60th), biologist E.O. Wilson (52nd), biologist Richard Dawkins (65th), futurist Ray Kurzweil (46th), anthropologist Jane Goodall (31st), climate scientist James Hansen (24th), physicist Peter Higgs (12th), neurologist Oliver Sacks (11th), and SpaceX owner Elon Musk (6th).