Visitors   Views   Downloads

Bibliometric analysis of scientific publications in rheumatology journals from China and other top-ranking countries between 2007 and 2017

View article
RT @thePeerJ: Bibliometric analysis of scientific publications in rheumatology journals from China and other top-ranking countries between…
RT @thePeerJ: Bibliometric analysis of scientific publications in rheumatology journals from China and other top-ranking countries between…
Bibliometric analysis of scientific publications in rheumatology journals from China and other top-ranking countries between 2007 and 2017 https://t.co/TRGkWgUnMC https://t.co/xqizlnU8pO
Bibliometric analysis of scientific publications in rheumatology journals from China and other top-ranking countries between 2007 and 2017 https://t.co/AhvhW1yt1I https://t.co/N4HVv9rE21
PEER-REVIEWED

Introduction

Rheumatic disorders are becoming one of the central health-care problems worldwide. Chronic rheumatic diseases are leading causes of disability, and bring heavy burden to the families and society (Xiang & Dai, 2009). By 2015, of the five main causes of global disability, two were related to rheumatism. (GBD 2013 DALYs and HALE Collaborators et al., 2015). The overall world prevalence of rheumatoid arthritis is approximately 0.5% to 1%. The incidence appears to be highest in Indians (5.3%) and lowest in people from China and Japan (0.2%–0.3%).

Rheumatology continues to be an exciting and vibrant specialty for specialists around the world. There have been important progress on the research front in rheumatology over the past 10 years (McQueen, 2017). In China, although the study of rheumatology started late, it is flourishing due to rapid development in the economy (Yamano & Nishioka, 2010). Numerous studies of rheumatic disorders have been published by Chinese researchers in recent years. In the past 10 years, more than US$26 million from Chinese government and private funding was granted to the study of rheumatology (Zeng et al., 2008). The quantity and quality of the scientific papers can reflect not only the level of individual research, but also the comprehensive national strength of a country. However, compared with other first-class countries, the research status of Chinese rheumatology is poorly understood. Bibliometrics is an important tool to analyze the literature of a certain scientific domain, and to assess the trends in research activity over time (Pu, Lyu & Su, 2016).

The aim of the study was to systematically evaluate rheumatology research from MC and the other four top-ranked countries between 2007 and 2017, and to provide a new perspective for future research directions. We investigated number and citations of publications, publication types, impact factors, and the relationship between gross domestic product (GDP) and the output of rheumatology research.

Methods

Search Strategy

In the present study, the Science Citation Index Expanded (SCIE) was used to perform the literature retrieval on September 5, 2018. A total of 30 journals related to rheumatology were included. Since the name of Arthritis Rheum journal was changed to Arthritis Rheumatol in 2014, articles published in journals using these two names were combined for the study. The details of the 30 journals were listed in Table S1. The ISSN numbers of the journals were used to perform the search. The final search query was “0003-4967 OR 1759-4790 OR 2326-5191 OR 0004-3591 OR 1462-0324 OR 1063-4584 OR 0049-0172 OR 1040-8711 OR 1478-6354 OR 1521-6942 OR 0889-857X OR 1297-319X OR 2151-464X OR 0315-162X OR 1523-3774 OR 0300-9742 OR 0392-856X OR 1756-1841 OR 0961-2033 OR 0770-3198 OR 1546-0096 OR 0172-8172 OR 1439-7595 OR 1471-2474 OR 1076-1608 OR 0482-5004 OR 0303-464X OR 0340-1855 OR 1309-0291 OR 1058-2452 OR 0341-051X” AND “USA[AD]”, “UK[AD]”, “Netherlands[AD]”, “France[AD]” and “China[AD] NOT Taiwan[AD] NOT Hong Kong[AD]” and “Language=English”. Data retrieval process was completed independently by two researchers, and any differences were resolved at the consensus meeting. The number of articles in clinical trial, review, case report, randomized controlled trial (RCT) and meta-analysis was obtained by searching PubMed.

Data analysis

Four methods were used to compare scientific output in the five countries. First, the impact factors (IFs), h-index and citations were collected from Web of Science. The cumulative IF for a country over a year is simply the sum over all papers that the authors has published of the IFs of the journals. Country X has published three papers in journal A that has IF 1.2. It has published 1 papers in journal B that has IF 1.9. The cumulative IF would then be 5.5 (3*1.2+1*1.9). Second, publication types of the articles were calculated from Pubmed. Third, the 10 most published journals of rheumatology for each country and the number of articles published in the 10 most influential journals in each country were also counted. Finally, the h-index for each country were calculated. Statistical analyses were conducted using GraphPad Prism 6.0 (San Diego, CA, USA). Pearson’s correlation coefficient was used to study the relationship between the number of publications in different countries and GDP. The value of p < 0.05 was considered significant.

Results

Total amount and share of publications

A total of 53,439 articles (Fig. 1) were published between 2007 and 2017 in the 30 rheumatology journals. In general, the USA accounted for the largest proportion (13,391, 25.1%, 1st), followed by the UK (6,179, 11.6%, 2nd), the Netherlands (4,310, 8.1%, 3rd) and France (4,066, 7.6%, 4th). MC ranked 9th (2,898, 5.4%). We observed a significant increase in the number of articles published annually from the USA and MC since 2007, but those from the other three countries remained stable (Fig. 2A). Since 2015, the number of articles published in MC per year has exceeded that of France. The proportion of articles from MC has grown rapidly over time, but this was not the case for articles from the other four countries (Fig. 2B). Despite the growing number of publications, the share of articles from the USA remained stable for the last 11 years. From 2015 onwards, MC’s annual share of articles has surpassed that of France and approached that of the Netherlands. Among the five countries, the USA contributed the most number of top-cited articles (63).

Flow chart of rheumatology research inclusion.

Figure 1: Flow chart of rheumatology research inclusion.

The number (A) and share (B) of papers published in rheumatology journals from the five countries.

Figure 2: The number (A) and share (B) of papers published in rheumatology journals from the five countries.

Publication activity in relation to GDP or number of authors

As illustrated in Fig. 3, annual articles in the USA (r = 0.82, p < 0.01) and MC (r = 0.99, p < 0.001) were strongly correlated with GDP. However, the annual number of articles published in the UK, the Netherlands and France was irrelevant to GDP. The number of authors from the five countries were listed in Table S2. We have observed that the number of authors in the five countries has continued to increase since 2007. And annual articles in the five countries were strongly correlated with their annual number of authors (Fig. 4).

Influence of GDP on rheumatology publications by researchers from the USA (A), the UK (B), the Netherlands (C), France (D) and China (E) from 2007 to 2017.

Figure 3: Influence of GDP on rheumatology publications by researchers from the USA (A), the UK (B), the Netherlands (C), France (D) and China (E) from 2007 to 2017.

Abbreviations: GDP, gross domestic product.
Influence of number of authors on rheumatology publications from the USA (A), the UK (B), the Netherlands (C), France (D) and China (E) from 2007 to 2017.

Figure 4: Influence of number of authors on rheumatology publications from the USA (A), the UK (B), the Netherlands (C), France (D) and China (E) from 2007 to 2017.

Publication types

The number of 5 types of articles published by these countries, including clinical trial, RCT, case report, review and meta-analysis, was shown in Fig. 5. The USA accounted for the largest proportion of all types of articles except meta-analysis. In respect of RCTs and clinical trials, the total numbers from MC were remarkably lower than those from the other countries. MC has published the largest number of meta-analyses in the five countries over the past 11 years. The annual number of five article types published by five countries were shown in Fig. 6. Since 2014, the annual number of RCTs and clinical trials published in the USA has increased significantly. However, the annual number of case reports showed an opposite downward trend since 2010. Except for the increase in the number of meta-analysis and reviews since 2009, there have been no significant changes in the other four types of articles published in MC.

The number of papers of each different publication type (including RCTs, clinical trials, reviews, case reports and meta-analysis) from different countries.

Figure 5: The number of papers of each different publication type (including RCTs, clinical trials, reviews, case reports and meta-analysis) from different countries.

Abbreviations: RCT, randomized control trial.
The annual number of five article types published by the five countries.

Figure 6: The annual number of five article types published by the five countries.

Impact factors

According to JCR 2017, all the 30 journals had IFs. The details of the accumulated and average IFs from the five countries were listed in Table 1. According to the accumulated IF calculation, MC (10,201) was lower than the USA (65,493), the UK (34,606), the Netherlands (26,844) and France (22,653) in the past 11 years. The total average IFs were arranged in the following order: the Netherlands (6.2), the UK (5.6), France (5.6), the USA (4.9), and MC (3.5). In addition, the average IF of MC decreased year by year. And MC’s average IFs were negatively correlated with the annual number of articles (r = 0.86, p < 0.001).

Table 1:
Cumulative and average IFs for articles from the five countries.
Cumulative IF Average IF
Year USA UK Netherlands France MC USA UK Netherlands France MC
2007 4,593 2,807 1,844 1,350 256 5.5 6.2 7.8 7.0 4.7
2008 4,934 2,813 1,652 1,743 397 5.4 6.9 6.4 7.3 4.6
2009 5,163 2,802 2,337 1,977 482 5.4 7.0 8.7 8.4 3.4
2010 6,237 3,232 2,481 2,291 684 6.0 7.3 8.4 8.1 3.8
2011 6,245 3,460 2,944 2,351 961 5.9 7.7 8.4 9.3 3.8
2012 6,166 3,065 2,577 2,250 1,066 6.3 7.4 8.1 8.1 3.6
2013 6,153 2,775 2,398 2,006 957 6.6 5.6 6.4 7.2 3.2
2014 6,443 3,413 2,741 2,198 1,318 6.7 4.9 5.7 6.0 3.3
2015 6,454 3,323 2,732 1,995 1,428 5.5 4.1 5.0 4.3 3.2
2016 6,563 3,544 2,618 2,285 1,421 5.3 4.1 4.6 4.4 3.2
2017 6,542 3,372 2,520 2,207 1,231 4.7 5.6 5.9 5.3 3.0
Total 65,493 34,606 26,844 22,653 10,201 4.9 5.6 6.2 5.6 3.5
DOI: 10.7717/peerj.6825/table-1

Notes:

IF

impact factor

MC

Mainland China

Citation reports and H-index

The details of the total and average citations from the five countries were listed in Table 2. The USA had the largest number of total citations and the Netherlands had the most average citations in the past 11 years, while MC’s total and average citations were the lowest. Total citations from the five countries have increased from 2007 to 2010. But after that, the number of citations have declined year by year. As shown in Fig. 7, the USA had the highest value of h-index (185), followed by the UK (154), the Netherlands (140), France (132) and MC (72).

Table 2:
Total and average citations of articles from the five countries.
Year USA UK Netherlands France MC
2007 43,290 24,312 16,271 12,752 2,081
2008 46,372 22,163 11,788 14,367 3,220
2009 45,199 23,610 19,504 16,607 5,507
2010 53,755 30,496 21,830 18,762 5,400
2011 44,716 21,942 18,311 14,707 5,166
2012 41,054 17,728 12,145 12,215 6,114
2013 31,212 15,332 12,507 10,514 4,020
2014 26,894 15,382 11,232 9,587 3,955
2015 18,844 8,939 6,601 5,374 3,348
2016 12,489 6,800 4,536 3,805 1,994
2017 5,509 3,469 2,367 2,332 905
Total citations 369,334 190,173 137,092 121,022 41,710
Average citations 27.6 30.8 31.8 29.8 14.4
DOI: 10.7717/peerj.6825/table-2

Notes:

MC

Mainland China

The h-index of the five countries.

Figure 7: The h-index of the five countries.

Top 10 high-impact rheumatology journals

In the past 11 years, the five countries have published 18,310 articles in the top 10 rheumatology journals. We found that 56.7% (10,380/18,310) of the articles were published in the top four journals, including Nat Rev Rheumatol, Ann Rheum Dis, Arthritis Rheumatol and Osteoarthr Cartilage. The USA published the most articles (8,389, 45.8%) in the top 10 rheumatology journals, followed by the UK (4,061, 22.2%), the Netherlands (2,916, 15.9%), France (2,056, 11.2%) and MC (888, 4.8%). As shown in Table 3, 62.7% of the US articles were published in the 10 top-ranking journals, while only 30.6% of the articles in MC were published in these journals.

Table 3:
Articles in the top 10 high-impact rheumatology journals from the five countries.
Rank Journal title 2017 IF USA UK Netherlands France MC
1 NAT REV RHEUMATOL 15.661 228 108 69 31 19
2 ANN RHEUM DIS 12.350 1,200 1,036 1,049 640 131
3 ARTHRITIS RHEUMATOL 7.871 2,186 666 499 419 192
4 OSTEOARTHR CARTILAGE 5.454 1,043 308 254 130 172
5 RHEUMATOLOGY 5.245 624 1,126 404 353 124
6 SEMIN ARTHRITIS RHEU 4.356 311 67 40 91 22
7 CURR OPIN RHEUMATOL 4.277 499 110 59 37 9
8 ARTHRITIS RES THER 4.269 850 348 331 203 189
9 ARTHRIT CARE RES 4.149 1,084 254 198 141 29
10 RHEUM DIS CLIN N AM 3.522 364 38 13 11 1
Total 8,389 4,061 2,916 2,056 888
Divided by total article volume of each country (%) 62.7 65.7 67.7 50.6 30.6
DOI: 10.7717/peerj.6825/table-3

Notes:

IF

impact factor

MC

Mainland China

Most published rheumatology journals

The journals with the most published articles by researchers in the five countries were shown in Table 4. Seven of the 10 most published journals by the US researchers were among the top 10 influential journals. Meanwhile, six journals in the UK, six journals in the Netherlands and seven journals in France were among the top 10 high IF journals. Only three journals in MC were among the top 10. Over the past 11 years, Bmc Musculoskel Dis ranked the first in MC. However, it was not ranked top 10.

Table 4:
Top 10 most published rheumatology journals in the five countries.
USA N UK N Netherlands N France N MC N
1 AR 2,186 R 1,126 ARD 1,049 JBS 982 BMD 374
2 JOR 1,429 ARD 1,036 AR 499 ARD 640 RI 360
3 ARD 1,200 AR 666 R 404 AR 419 CR 332
4 ACR 1,084 JOR 494 JOR 370 JOR 387 LUPUS 200
5 OAC 1,043 BMD 393 BMD 335 R 353 ART 189
6 ART 850 ART 348 ART 331 CAER 224 JOR 179
7 R 624 OAC 308 OAC 254 ART 203 OAC 172
8 JCR 530 ACR 254 ACR 198 ACR 141 IJORD 160
9 LUPUS 525 CAER 232 CAER 187 OAC 130 ARD 131
10 COIR 499 CR 230 CR 143 SAR 91 CAER 127
DOI: 10.7717/peerj.6825/table-4

Notes:

ARD

ANN RHEUM DIS, IF = 12.350

AR

ARTHRITIS RHEUMATOL, IF = 7.871

R

RHEUMATOLOGY, IF = 5.245

OAC

OSTEOARTHR CARTILAGE, IF = 5.454

COIR

CURR OPIN RHEUMATOL, IF = 4.277

ART

ARTHRITIS RES THER, IF = 4.269

ACR

ARTHRIT CARE RES, IF = 4.149

JOR

J RHEUMATOL, IF = 3.470

CAER

CLIN EXP RHEUMATOL, IF = 3.201

IJORD

INT J RHEUM DIS, IF = 2.423

LUPUS

LUPUS, IF = 2.969

CR

CLIN RHEUMATOL, IF = 2.141

RI

RHEUMATOL INT, IF = 1.952

BMD

BMC MUSCULOSKEL DIS, IF = 1.998

JCR

JCR-J CLIN RHEUMATOL, IF = 1.974

JBS

JOINT BONE SPINE, IF = 3.304

SAR

SEMIN ARTHRITIS RHEU, IF = 4.356

IF

impact factor

MC

Mainland China

Discussion

Rheumatism is a major cause of disability around the world. As far as we know, this is the first study to compare the contributions of authors from MC and the top countries in this field to rheumatology research. It is unrealistic to compare the publications of MC with that of all countries in the world. Therefore, we only selected the top four countries in the field of rheumatology for comparison, which have made great contributions to this field.

Our study compared the research level of rheumatology between MC and the USA, the UK, the Netherlands and France from 2007 to 2017. The results showed that American researchers published the most articles among the five countries. Although the annual number of articles from the USA increased year by year, the share of articles remained steady. Notably, the share and number of articles published each year in MC have increased dramatically. The number of articles published by MC in 2017 was more than 6 times in 2007 and was quite close to that of the Netherlands. Its rapid growth might due to the continuous increase in GDP and number of rheumatologists. In addition to the improvement in economic status, the increase in research and development funds was undoubtedly the main reason for the progress of China’s scientific output (Zeng et al., 2008). At the same time, more and more rheumatologists were engaged in rheumatology research. Other factors such as incentive reward plan and career needs would certainly stimulate research output (Man et al., 2014). However, considering the huge population size, MC’s research in the field of rheumatology lagged far behind other developed countries . However, it has to be mentioned that the correlation between GDP and publications should be carefully interpreted, as the GDP growths in other countries were much smaller than in the USA and MC, so the correlation will be weak.

Good RCTs were often considered the gold standard in testing the efficacy or effectiveness of medical intervention (Schulz et al., 2010). In the past 11 years, the USA published the largest number of RCTs, clinical trials, reviews and case reports. It is noteworthy that MC published the fewest number of RCTs and clinical trials among the five countries, indicating that a less quantity of original work is made available by MC. Clinical research has bridged the gap between basic science and human health improvement. It is heavily weighted towards biomedical science, and plays a special role in the fight against rheumatic diseases by providing evidence for their treatment and diagnosis. Based on the advantages of clinical research, more clinical studies should be performed to provide new insights into the prevention, biomarkers, diagnosis or treatment of rheumatic diseases.As is known to all, MC has the largest population in the world, thus accumulated a large number of clinical data. However, these resources have not been fully utilized. Controlled clinical studies should be an important research direction of Chinese rheumatologists in the future. High-quality clinical research is expensive, and in the future should receive more funding support. It should be mentioned that the number of RCTs and clinical trials were probably in relation with the development of pharmaceutic industry devoted to the discovery of original drugs because the industry not only designed but also financed and promoted the majority of those kinds of publications. MC’s research in this area is still far from that in developed countries. Therefore, new drug research or other original research should be important research directions of Chinese rheumatologists in the future. Our results also showed that the number of meta-analysis from MC was the most among the five countries. Though a meta-analysis is a secondary source, it combine the results from multiple studies in an effort to increase power, and improves estimates of the size of the effect or resolve uncertainty. It is worth mention that the number of RCTs in the USA was far ahead of the other four countries and has grown year by year since 2009. This might be the reason why the total citations in the USA still ranked first.

The IF is a measure of the frequency with which the average article in a journal has been cited in a particular year (Zou, Li & Xu, 2016). It is used to measure the importance of a journal by calculating the number of times it’s articles are cited (Cherubini, 2008). Although there are many deficiencies, IF is a good technique for scientific evaluation. The annual total IFs of articles originating in MC has increased significantly over the past 11 years, but was still markedly lower than those from the other four countries. Interestingly, the average IFs from MC showed a linear decrease during 2010–2017. Also, we found that MC’s average IFs were negatively correlated with its annual number of articles. This indicated that rheumatology researchers from MC may have overemphasized the quantity of articles, while ignoring the quality of articles (Li et al., 2010; Xu et al, 2011). It should be noted that the IF is not always a reliable instrument to measure the quality of articles (Wang, Song & Barabasi, 2013). It is possible that articles published in low-impact journals could be excellent research, and vice versa. Therefore, we chose h-index and citations of articles for further comparison. Times cited of an article represents the extent to which it affects other publications (Jiang et al., 2016). This makes it easy to find some of the most important articles in a field. The h-index is a number intended to measure both the productivity and the citation impact of a scientist or scholar (Bornmann & Daniel, 2009). Although the number of articles published in MC has been growing rapidly each year, the number of citations per article was still the lowest among the five countries. The same results were found in the most popular rheumatology journals and the h-index. All these data points to the urgent need for MC to improve the quality of its publications.

There are some limitations in our study. First, only 30 rheumatology journals were included in the experiment. Many general journals also published rheumatology articles and were excluded from the study. Second, the IFs, citations and ranks of journals were calculated according to JCR 2017. But the data of JCR changes each year. Third, a bias may exist because we determined the country of a paper according to the first affiliation of the first author (Ye et al., 2014). The contributions of authors from other countries in some national cooperation projects may be overlooked. In addition, it is better to combine disease incidence with the publications. This will guide the monitoring of the disease.

Conclusions

In summary, this study provided an overview of global rheumatology research for a decade. Although MC has made great progress in rheumatology research, the USA is still dominates. It should be emphasized that MC still has a long way to go to achieve the academic performance of the USA and the UK. Of note and worth mentioning is the fact that MC has published the lowest number of clinical trials and RCTs. As the second largest economy in the world with a population of over 1.3 billion, MC has great potential in the field of rheumatology. We suggest that MC researchers should spend less time writing meta-analysis and more time on all other types of publications (clinical studies, comparative studies, consensus, guidelines, basic and experimental research, epidemiologic studies, educational studies, etc.).

Supplemental Information

The list of the 30 rheumatology journals

DOI: 10.7717/peerj.6825/supp-1

Annual number of authors from the five countries

DOI: 10.7717/peerj.6825/supp-2