ESO Remains World’s Most Productive Ground-based Observatory

14 March 2014

A survey of the number of peer-reviewed scientific papers published in 2013 using data from ESO’s telescopes and instruments has shown that ESO remains the world’s most productive ground-based observatory. Astronomers used observational data from ESO facilities to produce 840 refereed papers last year. The number of papers published from ESO data in 2013 has even remained slightly higher than the number of papers using data from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

Nearly 70% of all papers credited to ESO in 2013 used data acquired using the Very Large Telescope (VLT) or VLT Interferometer facilities. The most productive VLT instruments in terms of papers remain FORS2 and UVES. X-shooter also showed a steep increase in the number of publications and has produced a total of almost 170 papers from 2010 to 2013.

Other facilities at the La Silla Paranal Observatory — including the survey telescope VISTA at Paranal, as well as La Silla’s telescopes and instruments — have seen an increase compared to the previous year. HARPS remains La Silla’s most productive instrument. Facilities located at the La Silla Observatory provided data for more than 270 papers, almost matching the number of papers of the next most productive ground-based observatories.

The Atacama Pathfinder Experiment telescope (APEX) operated by ESO on the Chajnantor Plateau in Chile’s Atacama region — a collaboration between the Max-Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIfR, 50%), the Onsala Space Observatory (OSO, 23%) and ESO (27%) —  has seen a slight increase in ESO publications since last year.

The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) celebrated its transition from a construction project to a fully fledged observatory on 13 March 2013 with its official inauguration. It has seen its refereed papers using ESO data more than double since 2012, as the results from the Early Science phase are being published [1].

The methods used to obtain these numbers vary across the different observatories, so the figures cannot always be compared precisely. However, ESO has significantly surpassed any other ground-based observatory for the seventh year in a row and even remains slightly ahead of the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope — results that clearly cement ESO’s major contribution to astronomical research. These publication statistics give an idea of how much scientific work gets done with data from the individual observatories, but do not address the impact of this science.

These figures are published in the annual Basic ESO Publication Statistics published by ESO’s Library, calculated using the ESO Telescope Bibliography (telbib), a database containing refereed publications that use ESO data [2]. ESO makes extensive efforts to identify all refereed papers that use ESO data and considers telbib essentially complete.

Interactive graphs of selected statistics are also available online. These graphs display the entire content of the telbib database, which contains records for publications from the year 1996 to the present. They can be used to explore the development of science papers using data from ESO instruments, the use of archival data as well as the average number of authors and ESO programmes per paper.


[1] In 2013, a total of 65 papers utilised data from ALMA, but 25 did not involve any European observing time, so they are not included in the statistics. The same approach is used when counting papers from other telescopes.

[2] Journals that are routinely screened for ESO-related keywords are: A&A, A&ARv, AJ, ApJ, ApJS, AN, ARA&A, EM&P, ExA, Icarus, MNRAS, Nature, NewA, NewAR, PASJ, PASP, P&SS and Science. New records are added approximately three weeks after they appear with their final bibcode on the NASA ADS Abstract Service.



Uta Grothkopf
ESO Librarian
Garching bei München, Germany
Tel: +49 89 3200 6280

Lars Lindberg Christensen
Head of ESO ePOD
ESO ePOD, Garching, Germany
Tel: +49 89 3200 6761
Cellular: +49-173-3872-621

About the Announcement



Number of papers published using observational data from different observatories
Number of papers published using observational data from different observatories
Number of papers published using observations from ESO facilities
Number of papers published using observations from ESO facilities