In response to his recent placement as #1 in Social Sciences and Humanities in Norway, SapienCE PI and Professor at the University of Bordeaux Francesco d’Errico, says he is honoured being on this prestigious list and that several factors resulted in him achieving this position. A key one, he states, is being a member of an interdisciplinary team carrying out research on early human symbolic behaviour.
Interdisciplinary view on cultural emergence
“I have had the chance to work on the earliest evidence of symbolic material culture and complex technologies from Africa, Europe, and Asia. The broad implications of finding out what we know about the emergence of cultures like ours are extensive. These discoveries we have made are widely cited by scholars working in disciplines such as anthropology, psychology, neuroscience, philosophy, and by researchers seeking to link cultural evolution and climate change. This broad net, that also extends to researchers in other fields, has contributed to increasing my citation numbers”, says d’Errico.
d’Errico co-authored the paper published in Nature 'Emergence of modern human behaviour: Middle Stone Age engravings from South Africa' (C.S. Henshilwood, F. d'Errico, R. Yates, Z. Jacobs, C. Tribolo, G.A.T Duller, Science 295) his publication with the highest number of citations (1323). He says that one reason this paper, and the associated discoveries, are widely cited, is because these 100 000 – 75000-year-old engraved ochres marked a key change of paradigm in our view of early modern humans’ culture and their advanced cognitive abilities.
Hard work and experience
“With this publication the deliberate nature of the Blombos Cave engravings became so apparent to scholars and the wider public that one of the engraved ochre pieces has become the icon of this change of paradigm, hence the high number of citations”.
SapienCE senior researcher, d’Errico says that seniority also is a key factor to being widely cited, and that some of his most top papers are the result of collaborative research, often with SapienCE colleagues.
“In many of these papers, I am not the first author, which does not mean I have not contributed significantly in assisting to get these papers published. In addition, I systematically put great effort into working with my PhD students and Postdocs to help them produce good research. When I co-author their papers, I am rewarded by their citation counts - which means that the older you are the more citations you get!
Curiosity, passion, and fair play
d’Errico is well known for his work ethic and productivity as a researcher. On average he publishes about 20 scientific articles every year. d’Errico explains that what drives him is a combination of curiosity and passion.
“I see research as a passion rather than as work. I enjoy interacting with colleagues, particularly younger researchers, and try to learn from them as much as I can. I like interdisciplinarity and think good research requires curiosity and a little dose of fair play competition”.
Interdisciplinary work was also one of the reasons why he was keen to be part of SapienCE from the beginning.
“SapienCE, a Centre of Excellence funded for 10 years by the Research Council of Norway, was an opportunity to consolidate existing links while developing new avenues of collaborative research. It also presented the possibility for new researchers to be included in the centre and to integrate their expertise and questions in a joint venture”.
Excellent opportunities with SapienCE
d’Errico says that SapienCE and the University of Bergen have created the ideal intellectual environment to attract new funding, for example ERC grants, including the ERC Synergy Grant Awarded for “Study of the Cognitive and Cultural Evolution of Numeracy” to him and co-led by SapienCE senior scientist and psychologist, Andrea Bender.
“These projects, and many other externally funded projects, would not have been possible without SapienCE.”
SapienCE has now entered the second 5-year phase as a Norwegian Centre of Excellence and d’Errico is excited about the research that lies ahead.
“In the next few years, I would like to collaborate on the publication of further discoveries about our understanding of the gradual processes that have shaped our cognition as modern humans”.
SapienCE director congratulates
“Professor Francesco d’Errico’ s presence within SapienCE has been truly transformative. His unwavering commitment to interdisciplinary collaboration and his passion for nurturing emerging researchers have significantly enriched our centre's vibrant intellectual environment”, Christopher Henshilwood, Director of SapienCE, University of Bergen says.
Henshilwood also says that Francesco’s extensive expertise and pioneering work in uncovering the earliest evidence of symbolic material culture and complex technologies have opened new avenues of exploration, allowing us to reshape our understanding of human cultural emergence.
“His collaborative spirit has not only led to groundbreaking discoveries but also fostered a culture of knowledge exchange and innovation among our team members. Francesco’s contributions, both as a prolific researcher and a mentor, have played a pivotal role in elevating SapienCE to its position as a hub of excellence in the study of human origins and cognition”, Henshilwood says.