Brazilian professor ranked among world's top sports researchers | AGÊNCIA FAPESP

Brazilian professor ranked among world's top sports researchers Emerson Franchini ranks third worldwide in terms of the number of scientific articles on Olympic sports published in indexed journals in the past 15 years (images: Wikimedia Commons / Leandro Negro)

Brazilian professor ranked among world's top sports researchers

October 05, 2016

By Elton Alisson  |  Agência FAPESP – Brazilian athletes won 19 medals at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, and now Brazil has won one more bronze medal – not in sports but in science.

Emerson Franchini, a professor at the University of São Paulo’s School of Physical Education & Sports (EEFE-USP), ranks third worldwide by authorship of scientific articles on Olympic sports published in indexed journals, according to the Olympic Research Medals Dashboard, a survey displayed online by

As recognition for third place, the survey awarded a symbolic bronze medal to Franchini, whose scientific initiation, masters degree research and PhD research were all supported by FAPESP. He currently has a regular research grant from FAPESP.

“I was surprised by my classification in this rank order,” Franchini told Agência FAPESP. “I didn’t realize the number of scientific articles I’ve published on Olympic sports was so significant.” is a research knowledge engine powered by big data analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence. It was developed by colwiz (Collective Wizdom), a startup founded by a former PhD student at the University of Oxford. The dashboard reflects analysis of scientific articles on 32 of the 42 Olympics sports by 44,579 researchers from 8,437 institutions in 118 countries published in 3,723 journals in the past 15 years.

Based on this analysis, the engine identified the countries, institutions, scientists, journals and most influential publications in research on these sports.

Franchini ranked third among the world’s top ten leading sports scientists ranked by number of publications and citations. He specializes in judo but also writes about boxing, canoeing, taekwondo and wrestling.

“Judo has always been my main research focus, but I’ve also done work on other sports,” said Franchini, who besides being a professor at EEFE-USP has also coached members of Brazil’s national judo team, including Leandro Guilheiro (bronze medalist in the Athens 2004 Olympics), Tiago Camilo (bronze in Beijing 2008), and Rafael Silva (bronze in London 2012 and Rio 2016).

The number of scientific articles on judo published by Franchini and other Brazilian researchers, such as Guilherme Giannini Artioli – also a professor at EEFE-USP and currently principal investigator for a project supported by FAPESP under its Young Investigators Grants, explains why Brazil ranked second among the top countries in research on judo, not by chance the individual sport in which Brazil has won the most Olympic medals.

According to the dashboard, the country with the most scientific articles published on judo is Japan, which invented the sport.

“Japan is also the country that won the most judo medals in the Rio 2016 Olympics, while Brazil came sixth in judo overall and third in women’s judo,” Franchini said. “This shows that in some cases there may be a correlation between research on a particular Olympic sport and the number of medals won.”

Brazil’s rankings

The dashboard also shows that Brazil performs strongly in scientific production on basketball, boxing, canoeing, volleyball, water polo, weightlifting, wrestling, pentathlon, artistic gymnastics and table tennis.

Alessandro Moura Zagatto, a professor at the Rio Claro campus of São Paulo State University (UNESP), ranked second among the world’s leading researchers on table tennis.

Brazil came 16th in the overall world sports research ranking, where the United States led by a wide margin, winning gold for research in 22 of the 32 Olympic sports covered.

In the past 15 years, the US published more research papers overall than the next four top countries in aggregate. The UK ranked second, Australia third, Japan fourth, and Canada fifth. China ranked eighth in the “research medals” table. says global research activity around Olympic sports has increased significantly over the past 15 years. According to its analysis, the most researched sport is athletics, followed by weightlifting.

The dashboard can be viewed at




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