Motivation: To analyze the relative proportion of bioinformatics papers and their non-bioinformatics counterparts in the top 20 most cited papers annually for the past two decades.
Results: When defining bioinformatics papers as encompassing both those that provide software for data analysis or methods underlying data analysis software, we find that over the past two decades, more than a third (34%) of the most cited papers in science were bioinformatics papers, which is approximately a 31-fold enrichment relative to the total number of bioinformatics papers published. More than half of the most cited papers during this span were bioinformatics papers. Yet, the average 5-year JIF of top 20 bioinformatics papers was 7.7, whereas the average JIF for top 20 non-bioinformatics papers was 25.8, significantly higher (P < 4.5 × 10−29). The 20-year trend in the average JIF between the two groups suggests the gap does not appear to be significantly narrowing. For a sampling of the journals producing top papers, bioinformatics journals tended to have higher Gini coefficients, suggesting that development of novel bioinformatics resources may be somewhat ‘hit or miss’. That is, relative to other fields, bioinformatics produces some programs that are extremely widely adopted and cited, yet there are fewer of intermediate success.
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.