Which country is tops in tropical medicine?

June 18, 1999

Citations for the trend spotters

Normally, analysis of citations in individual subfields is more useful for policy formation than is an examination of all of biomedicine.

Papers in a subfield such as tropical medicine can be filtered out from the Science Citation Index on the basis of their journals (such as Acta Tropica), title keywords (eg Chagas, malaria) and combinations (eg disease plus tropical). Thus the amount of tropical medicine research done by countries can be determined and compared with their biomedical research capability.

Not unexpectedly, tropical countries devote the highest percentage of their biomedical output to tropical medicine. Kenya leads with 62 per cent, followed by Peru and Nigeria (37 per cent) and Indonesia (29 per cent).

Surprisingly, just 10 per cent of Indian biomedical output is in this subfield. The country's apparent lack of commitment to research on endemic diseases was noted by Subbiah Arunachalam in 1997.

The former colonial European powers still retain quite a strong interest in the area, with Belgium, the United Kingdom and France all producing more than 2 per cent of their biomedical output in tropical medicine. It is a strong area for the UK, which has almost 15 per cent of world output (compared with 10 per cent in biomedicine), but not for the United States, which has 29 per cent against 40 per cent in all biomedicine.

Overall, the subfield is growing slightly more slowly than biomedicine, but some countries are expanding their output rapidly. South Africa is a notable example, as it alters its medical research priorities to reflect its health-care needs. Spain, Belgium and Italy are increasing their presence notably, as is Mexico. Conversely, Israel has sharply reduced its tropical medicine output, which from 1996-98 was only 60 per cent of that in 1993-95.

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