Paper of the Year Winner for Biomedical Research Announced

Results of a search for the most important biomedical research papers of the past year, published in any source, were announced in the December 20, 2003 issue of THE LANCET.

Many notable awards, including the Nobels and Lasker, recognize the achievements of individuals rather than the notable work of teams. Lancet Editor Richard Horton commented: “With this prize, we aim to salute truly first-class advances in thinking or practice which would otherwise go unnoticed by the contemporary establishment of science.”

The winning paper was “Genetic Structure of Human Populations,” which appeared in the journal Science on Dec 20, 2002. The selection was by Lancet editors from nominations made by the journal’s 24-member International Advisory Board for the most “original, topical, and important to medicine” paper they had read during the past 12 months from any scientific or medical journal.

The nominator stated that the paper has two very important messages: one general biological and one methodological. The biological lesson is that the overwhelming source of human genetic variation is between individuals and not between ethnic groups. The methodological lesson is that for assessing genetic risk, investigators can use standard study designs, as long as self-reported ethnic background is taken into account.

Kenneth K Kidd, professor of genetics and psychiatry at Yale and an author on the paper noted that “most people have a certain amount of fascination with their own origins, not just their genealogy, but the culture, history and geography of where they came from. This work statistically evaluates those similarities and differences.”

Authors of the international collaborative study include Noah Rosenberg (University of Southern California), Jonathan K. Pritchard (University of Chicago), James L. Weber (Marshfield Medical Research Center, Wisconsin), Howard M. Cann (Center for the Study of Human Polymorphisms, Paris), Kenneth K. Kidd (Yale University School of Medicine), Lev A. Zhivotovsky (the Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow), and Marcus W. Feldman (Stanford University).

Other nominated papers included the identification of the SARS coronavirus (Lancet), a vaccine trial of the human papilloma virus (New England Journal of Medicine), and the Million Women Study highlighting the increased risk of breast cancer from combination hormone replacement therapy (Lancet).

Science 298: 2381-2385 (2002) “Genetic Structure of Human Populations”
The Lancet 362: 2101-2103 (2003) “Paper of the Year”

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