Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública
On-line version ISSN 1680-5348
Print version ISSN 1020-4989
PELLEGRINI FILHO, Alberto; GOLDBAUM, Moisés and SILVI, John. Production of scientific articles about health in six Latin American countries, 1973-1992. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 1997, vol.1, n.1, pp.23-34. ISSN 1680-5348. http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1020-49891997000100005.
The production of articles resulting from biomedical, clinical, and public health studies that originated in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Mexico, and Venezuela from 1973 through 1992 was analyzed to discover trends in health research in Latin America. From the database of the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI), 41 238 articles with first authors who resided in those countries were extracted. These articles were analyzed by subject area, type of study, country, number of authors and institutions that participated in the investigation, and citations received by each article. Also analyzed were 95 articles in epidemiology selected from a pool of 570 published by authors from the six countries in 11 public health journals that enjoy international prestige. The results showed that the number of published works increased by 117% between the first and last five-year periods within the study period. Clinical research was distributed the most evenly among the countries, and public health research was the most concentrated (60.7% originated in Brazil). The numbers of biomedical and public health research articles showed relatively more growth than those reporting on clinical research throughout the period. A relative decrease was found in articles by only one author, which suggests a greater frequency of team efforts, and an increase was seen in articles with authors tied to two or more national or foreign institutions, which indicates greater cooperation between institutions and countries. The average number of citations received by each article was 3, which was less than half the number received by the articles in the ISI database (7.78). Regarding the subset of 95 articles in epidemiology, the great majority (96%) dealt with infectious diseases or maternal and child health, while in the international literature 78% of such articles were about chronic diseases. This group of articles gave evidence of more cooperation with international institutions and had a citation index of 4.36 per article. It is concluded that, despite the inherent limitations, this type of study reveals some general trends in the development of research in the six Latin American countries with the greatest scientific production and makes it possible to formulate hypotheses on the factors that influence these trends. Taken with the proper caution, the results of studies like this one can be of great value in defining health science and technology policies.