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UM News
December 18, 2013

MISSOULA – Steve Running, University of Montana Regents Professor of Ecology, recently was ranked one of the top 20 most productive authors worldwide in remote sensing research. The ranking came out of a study published in the Scientometrics journal, which analyzed citations of remote sensing research between 1991 and 2010.running

The study surveyed articles related to remote sensing in the Science Citation Index and Social Science Citation Index databases. Of the top 20 authors, Running was ranked first in geographical influence, third in five-year citations and first in five-year citations per article.

Running has taught at UM since 1979 and is an internationally recognized scholar in satellite-remote sensing data, global vegetation productivity, climate change and more. He currently directs the Numerical Terradynamic Simulation Group at UM, a laboratory that pioneers new approaches for landscape ecological and hydrological analyses.

Running and the NTSG team began working with NASA in the early 1980s to write algorithms for satellites to calculate photosynthesis across the whole world, every day.

The satellites, which were launched in 1999 and 2002, collect data that can be used to determine practical information such as forest range, crop production and drought impacts worldwide. But the data also shows how much Earth’s plant life – the biosphere – absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which slows down global warming.

While the study identifying Running as an influential author in remote sensing goes back to 1991, his work in the field began a whole decade earlier.

“We started back in 1981, helping NASA design the Earth Observing System, and then became part of the science team to write these algorithms to calculate global plant production,” Running said. “We’ve been on this specific activity for more than 30 years now. We worked for 15 years first establishing and building these satellites.”

The global nature of the research informs Running’s ranking as the most geographically influential author. A particularly telling graphic in the study shows a map of the world with little maroon dots over regions, each indicating an author and the amount of citations their data and research receive. On a world covered with dots, the largest dot – indicating more than 10,000 articles – sits squarely over Missoula.

“Our data set touches every square kilometer of the whole world,” Running said. “With most people, their research is only really viable in their regon.”

The study is published in the 2013 article “Global remote sensing research trends during 1991-2010: a bibliometric analysis.” None of the authors are affiliated with UM.

For more information call Running at 406-243-6311 or email More information on the NTSG can be found at


Photo caption: This figure from the article shows a comparison of spatial distributions of remote sensing research with satellite development of different countries. (Scientometrics graphic)



State, National Science


Contact: Steve Running, Regents Professor of Ecology and director of the UM Numerical Terradynamic Simulation Group, 406-243-6311,