Comparative study of scientific publications in orthopedics journals originating from USA, Japan and China (2000-2012)

Abstract

PURPOSE: To compare orthopedics publications from USA, Japan and China. METHODS: Scientific papers belong to ''Orthopedics'' category of Science Citation Index Expanded subject categories were retrieved from the "PubMed'' and ''Web of Knowledge'' online databases. RESULTS: In the field of orthopedics, the annual number increased significantly from 2000 to 2012 in the three countries (p<0.001). The share of articles increased significantly in China, but decreased significantly in Japan and USA (p<0.05). In 2012, USA contributed 35.3% of the total world output in orthopedics field and ranked 1st; Japan contributed 5.9% and ranked 4th; China contributed 5.2% and ranked 5th. Publications from USA had the highest accumulated IFs and the highest total citations of articles (USA > Japan > China, p<0.001). Average IF from USA was much higher than Japan and China (p<0.001). USA published the most articles in the top ten orthopedics journals (USA (14355) > Japan (1702) > China (487), p<0.01). CONCLUSION: Although China has undergone significant increase in annual number and percentage of scientific publication in orthopedics journals, it still lags far behind USA and Japan in the field of orthopedics in terms of quantity and quality.

Scientific Publication Indicators; Orthopedics; United States; Japan; China


10 - ORIGINAL ARTICLE

SCIENTIFIC PUBLICATIONS

Comparative study of scientific publications in orthopedics journals originating from USA, Japan and China (2000-2012)

Li-feng LaoI; Michael David DaubsII; Kevin H PhanIII; Jeffrey C WangIV

IMD, Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Renji Hospital, Shanghai Jiaotong University School of Medicine, Shanghai, China. Design of the study, manuscript writing

IIMD, Department of Orthopedic Surgery, University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), Los Angeles, California, USA. Design of the study, critical revision

IIIMD, Department of Orthopedic Surgery, University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), Los Angeles, California, USA. Acquisition of data, statistical analysis

IVMD, Department of Orthopedic Surgery, University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), Los Angeles, California, USA. Conception of the study, critical revision

Correspondence

ABSTRACT

PURPOSE: To compare orthopedics publications from USA, Japan and China.

METHODS: Scientific papers belong to ''Orthopedics'' category of Science Citation Index Expanded subject categories were retrieved from the "PubMed'' and ''Web of Knowledge'' online databases.

RESULTS: In the field of orthopedics, the annual number increased significantly from 2000 to 2012 in the three countries (p<0.001). The share of articles increased significantly in China, but decreased significantly in Japan and USA (p<0.05). In 2012, USA contributed 35.3% of the total world output in orthopedics field and ranked 1st; Japan contributed 5.9% and ranked 4th; China contributed 5.2% and ranked 5th. Publications from USA had the highest accumulated IFs and the highest total citations of articles (USA > Japan > China, p<0.001). Average IF from USA was much higher than Japan and China (p<0.001). USA published the most articles in the top ten orthopedics journals (USA (14355) > Japan (1702) > China (487), p<0.01).

CONCLUSION: Although China has undergone significant increase in annual number and percentage of scientific publication in orthopedics journals, it still lags far behind USA and Japan in the field of orthopedics in terms of quantity and quality.

Key words: Scientific Publication Indicators. Orthopedics. United States. Japan. China.

Introduction

The increasing incidence and prevalence of orthopedic disease has become a global public health challenge1,2. With more than 1.37 billion people, China is the world's largest and most populous country. In China, the overall prevalence of traumatic fracture, spine degeneration disease, osteoarthritis and osteoporosis is higher than 15%, and the total number of patients with acute and chronic orthopedic disease is estimated to be more than 200 million3-5, which is larger than that of the USA1,6. More than 400,000 patients received joint replacement and spinal fusion surgery every year in China5,7. As a large and growing clinical problem, orthopedic diseases consume a considerable proportion of health care resources, and have posed large economic burdens on patients' families and the government1,3. In a word, orthopedic disease has become an important public health problem in China4.

The study of scientific publications in a particular field, based on international bibliographic data, is one of the widely used methods to measure scientific achievement8. The development of "Pubmed" database and "Web of knowledge" online database9, has improved the speed and precision of literature data collection and comparison. It is known that USA is the leading power in biomedical investigation and publications in most scientific disciplines8. Japan, as a neighboring country of China, is also among the top-ranking countries of scientific research10. In the past decades, we have witnessed remarkable development of China in scientific research, which ranks second in annual total number of scientific publications in the world since 2007, second only to the USA11. So far, little is known about China's scientific contribution in the field of orthopedics. This study aimed to evaluate the quantity and quality of scientific publications in the field of orthopedics in China in the new century (2000-2012), and to compare these with USA and Japan.

Methods

This retrospective study examined 65 journals related to orthopedics that were selected from the ''orthopedics systems'' category of the Science Citation Index Expanded (SCIE) for 201112. This category included resources for the diagnosis and treatment of orthopedics diseases: general orthopedics publications, and specialized research on the musculoskeletal disorders, spine diseases, injury, arthroplasty, arthroscopy, hand surgery, sport medicine, traumatology, foot and ankle surgery, connective tissue diseases, osteoarthritis and physical therapy. Current orthopedics, Journal of the Neuromusculoskeletal System, Global Spine J, Chinese Journal of Spine and Spinal Cord were not indexed by Medline and were excluded from this study. Our search of the ''Pubmed'' and ''Web of knowledge'' database on May 20th, 2013 sought articles published in the 65 journals between January 1st 2000 and December 31th 2012 by researchers from USA, China and Japan13. The ISSN numbers of the journals were used to perform this search.

Scientific output from the three countries was identified using the authors' institutional affiliations. Original clinical trials, randomized controlled trials (RCT) and case reports were compiled using the publication type categories of the PubMed database. We used online database (US National Science Foundation14, National Institution of Health15, Nature Science Foundation of China16, Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST) 17), to retrieve information on government funding spending on scientific research.

Five methods were used to evaluate publication quality. Firstly, the accumulated and average IFs were determined using the ISI's 2011 Journal Citation Reports (JCR)11. Secondly, we quantified citations of articles written by researchers from the three countries. Thirdly, we calculated the number of Randomized Controlled Trials (RCT) and clinical trials, which were associated with a higher grade of evidence. Fourthly, the number of articles published by each country in the top 10 high-impact orthopedics journals was also compared. Fifthly, we determined the top 10 popular orthopedics journals for the three countries according to the number of articles published by each journal.

Statistical analysis

Statistical analysis were performed using SPSS 17.0 (SPSS, Chicago, IL). The linear regression analysis was performed to determine any significant change of the total numbers over the period of time. ''r'' means correlation coefficient. The Kruskal-Wallis test was used to detect differences among the three countries, and rank-sum tests were conducted for detecting the differences between two countries when necessary. The test for significance was two-tailed and p<0.05 was considered significant.

Results

Total number of scientific articles in USA, Japan and China

A total of 7,393,001 articles were published in the SCI-cited journals from 2000 to 2012 in the three countries; 30.07% of publications in the SCI-cited journals from 2000 to 2012 were from USA (4,996,002/16,615,643), 6.96% were from Japan (1,156,481/16,615,643) and 7.47% were from China (1,240,518/16,615,643). The annual number of published scientific articles increased significantly from 2000 to 2012 in USA (322,713 to 427,140, annual incremental rate =2.36%, r = 0.961, p < 0.001), Japan (82,234 to 89,383, annual incremental rate = 0.70%, r = 0.676, p = 0.011) and China (31,059 to 190,607, annual incremental rate=16.32%, r = 0.987, p < 0.001) (Figure 1).

The number of scientific articles from China has exceeded that from Japan since 2007, and ranked second in the world thereafter (Figure 1). USA always ranked first in the production of scientific articles. The share of articles decreased significantly over time in USA (32.56% to 27.14%, annual incremental rate = -1.51%, r = 0.968, p < 0.001) and Japan (8.30% to 5.68%, annual incremental rate = -3.11%, r = 0.983, p < 0.001), but increased significantly over time in China (3.13% to 12.11%, annual incremental rate = 11.92%, r = 0.993, p < 0.001). The government funding spending on scientific research increased slowly in USA (21,000 to 38,290 million dollars, annual incremental rate =5.13%, r = 0.910, p < 0.001) and Japan (1,210 to 1,610 million dollars, annual incremental rate =2.41%, r = 0.896, p < 0.001), but increased rapidly in China (207 to 3,815 million dollars, annual incremental rate= 27.49%, r = 0.850, p < 0.001) (Figure 2).

Number of articles in the field of orthopedics in USA, Japan and China

A total of 52,290 articles were published in the 65 journals by the three countries from 2000 to 2012; 81.69%(42,714/52,290) of these were from USA, 12.98%(6,788/52,290) were from Japan and 5.33%(2,788/52,290) were from China. The annual number of published articles in the field of orthopedics increased significantly from 2000 to 2012 in USA (2,557 to 4,323, annual incremental rate= 4.47%, r = 0.980, p < 0.001), Japan (371 to 720, annual incremental rate= 5.68%, r =0.942, p < 0.001) and China (42 to 635, annual incremental rate = 25.40%, r = 0.908, p < 0.001) (Figure 3).

The share of articles increased significantly over time in China (0.67% to 5.19%, annual incremental rate= 18.57%, r = 0.923, p < 0.001), and decreased significantly in Japan (5.94% to 5.88%, annual incremental rate = -0.08%, r = -0.589, p = 0.034), and USA (40.94% to 35.33%, annual incremental rate = -1.22%, r = -0.882, p < 0.001) (Figure 4).

In 2012, USA contributed 35.3% of the total world output in orthopedics field and ranked 1st; Japan contributed 5.9% and ranked 4th; China contributed 5.2% and ranked 5th.

Clinical trials, randomized controlled trials and case reports (Figure 5)

Researchers from USA published 1806 clinical trials in orthopedics between 2000 and 2012, which far exceeded those from China (n= 121, p < 0.001) and Japan (n= 108, p < 0.001), surpassing the combined number of Japan and China. But there was no significant differences between Japan and China in the number of clinical trials (p = 0.296). Researchers from USA published more RCTs than those from Japan and China (USA(1219) > China(110) >Japan(59), all p values were less than 0.001, (Figure 5). The numbers of case reports from USA, China and Japan differed significantly (USA(3676) > Japan(1089) > China(298), all p values were less than 0.001 ) (Figure 5).

Impact factors

The impact factor (IF) indicates the average number of citations to articles in publications. According to the JCR, the 65 orthopedics journals had IF in 201111. The accumulated IF of articles from USA were much higher than that of Japan and China (97,560.1 vs. 13,461.7 vs. 5,381.1, all p values were less than 0.001). The average IF of orthopedics articles from USA was much higher than that of Japan and China (2.29 vs. 1.99 vs. 1.82, p < 0.001), but there were no significant differences between Japan and China (p = 0.067, Table 1).

Citations of articles published in orthopedics journals

Articles from USA were most cited (1,258,137 citations), followed by those from Japan (116,625 citations) and China (15,993 citations). These differences among the three countries were all significant (p < 0.001, Figure 6).

Articles in the 10 top-ranking orthopedics journals

A total of 16,544 articles from the three countries were published in the 10 top-ranking orthopedics journals. Among them, 27.39% (4,532/16,544) were in the top three journals: Osteoarthr Cartilage, Am J Sport Med, Spine J. Researchers from USA published 14,355 (86.8%) articles in 10 high-impact orthopedics journals, those from Japan published 1,702 (10.3%) articles, and those from China published 487 (2.9%) articles (Table 2).

Popular orthopedics journals

The journals that published the most articles written by researchers from the three countries are listed in Table 3.

Discussion

USA, Japan and China are all major countries in the world in terms of population, economy and scientific research. As two of the most developed countries, USA and Japan have been leading global scientific research for many years. As a developing country, China has changed greatly in the past decades, with rapid development in education, urbanization, economy, and scientific research. The number of articles published in scientific journal is a reflection of research activity in a country18,19. Due to generous funding support and competitive research environments, USA leads all other countries in scientific publication productivity in the orthopedics field20-22. Although the annual number of published articles in the field of orthopedics increased in Japan with statistic significance (p < 0.001), the share of articles declined from 6.65% in 2001 to 5.32% in 2011 (r= -0.598, p < 0.05). However, there is no doubt that the Japan still plays an important role in the orthopedics field. With great increase in the number of researchers and research funding and more frequent international collaboration23,24, the annual total number of scientific publications in China increased rapidly in the past decades and ranked second in the world since 2007. From 2000 to 2012, the government funding spending on scientific research increased rapidly in China (207 million dollars in 2000 to 3815 million dollars in 2012), with an annual incremental rate of 27.49% (Figure 2).

Our study demonstrated that the absolute number of Chinese articles in orthopedics journals had a 15-fold increase (from 42 papers in 2000 to 635 paper in 2012, p < 0.001), and the share of articles also increased significantly in China (from 0.67% in 2000 to 5.19% in 2012, p < 0.001). In orthopedics field, even in 2012 China only contributed 5.19% of the total world output and ranked 5th, lagging far behind USA (35.33%). That is to say, China remains one of the smaller players in the orthopedics field, with its share of total publications of 5.19%. There are many causes attributing to the low quantity of scientific publications in orthopedics field in China25. Firstly, the relatively low amount of government funding is a major reason. Government fundings on medical research account for more than 80% of the total fundings in USA. However, Chinese government fundings on medical research only account for 20-30% of the total government fundings. Secondly, the relative late initiation of this discipline is also an important reason. Orthopedics work in China started in early 60s, but it was not until the middle of the 1980s before it became an independent discipline and linked with the international orthopedics community5. Thirdly, unbalanced development between urban and vast rural areas in China is also an important cause. Although China has gained great achievement in economy in the past decades, most residents in the rural areas are still in poverty. More than 50% of the rural population cannot afford any kind of medical care26,27. So, orthopedics development is at a relatively low level in the rural areas, far from the modernization level to publish scientific articles in international journals. Fourthly, the use of English as the language of publication for most scientific publications is also a hard problem for Chinese researchers. And a lot of articles by Chinese authors are published in journals in Chinese.

Although IF is not an appropriate measure of the scientific quality of individual articles28, it is still one of the most useful tools to evaluate the relative importance of scientific research29. The average IF of orthopedics articles from USA was much higher than that of Japan and China (p < 0.001), but there was no significant differences between Japan and China (p > 0.05), suggesting research quality is much better in USA. The phenomena may have something to do with the fact that most orthopedic doctors of China reside in metropolis of the coastal region, which has a higher education background than most of the rest of the country5. It is reported that the research output of China was mainly from four cities, Shanghai, Beijing, Nanjing and Guangzhou25. In summary, our comparison of publication quality using IF, citation index, number of clinical trails and number of articles published in the top 10 journals demonstrated that China still lagged far behind USA and Japan even at the end of the study period (2012).

There are some inherent limitations in this study. Firstly, the orthopedics journals were selected from the ''orthopedics'' category of Science Citation Index Expanded (SCIE) for 2011. The included journals have been changing year by year, although most of journals remained unchanged. In addition, some relevant journals were not included in the orthopedics category of the SCIE. Secondly, we limited the author's affiliation to country names (USA, China, Japan), which would omit articles that did not designate country names. For some studies that were conducted in joint collaboration with other regions or countries, only affiliations of corresponding authors were included as the origin of research in the PubMed database, which neglected the contributions of other researchers from different geographic areas. Thirdly, in terms of government funding for scientific research we only search the NIH and NSF for USA, JST for Japan and NSFC for China26-29. As we know, every country has different government funding distribution system, it was impossible to search fundings from Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Science and Technology, local governments at all levels. Although we only statistically evaluated the national government scientific funding, the trend and amount was still comparable and believable. Fourthly, the accumulated IF and the average IF were evaluated by utilizing the IFs of JCR 2011. In the past decade, the IFs of the journals had changed year by year. Therefore, the accumulated IF and average IF reported in this study is only estimation, but it is likely to reflect the trend since the alteration of IF is relatively slight for most journals in the past decade. However, despite these limitations, we believe that the results in this study are likely to reflect the real situation of orthopedics research in USA, Japan and China.

Conclusions

As a developing country, China has made progress significantly in scientific publication since the new century, exceeded Japan and ranked second in the world since 2007. In the field of orthopedics, China has made a remarkable progress in annual number and percentage of scientific publication in the past 13 years (2000-2012). The results of this study also imply that China still lags far behind USA and Japan in this field. The quantity and quality of orthopedics articles need to be improved and effective measures should be taken for China to promote scientific research in the orthopedics field.

Received: July 11, 2013

Review: Sept 10, 2013

Accepted: Oct 14, 2013

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  • Correspondence:
    Dr. Michael D. Daubs, MD
    Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery and Neurosurgery
    UCLA Comprehensive Spine Center, UCLA Department of Orthopaedic Surgery
    1250 16th Street, Suite 3145-E, Santa Monica, CA 90404
    Phone: 424-259-9828
    Fax: 424-259-6594

Publication Dates

  • Publication in this collection
    05 Dec 2013
  • Date of issue
    Nov 2013

History

  • Received
    11 July 2013
  • Accepted
    14 Oct 2013
  • Reviewed
    10 Sept 2013
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