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Open Access Research article

Global collaborative networks on meta-analyses of randomized trials published in high impact factor medical journals: a social network analysis

Ferrán Catalá-López12*, Adolfo Alonso-Arroyo34, Brian Hutton5, Rafael Aleixandre-Benavent3 and David Moher5

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacovigilance, Spanish Medicines and Healthcare Products Agency (AEMPS), Madrid, Spain

2 Fundación Instituto de Investigación en Servicios de Salud, Valencia, Spain

3 López Piñero Institute for the History of Medicine and Science (IHMC), Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) and University of Valencia, Valencia, Spain

4 Department of History of Science and Documentation, University of Valencia, Valencia, Spain

5 Clinical Epidemiology Program, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute (OHRI), Ottawa, ON, Canada

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BMC Medicine 2014, 12:15  doi:10.1186/1741-7015-12-15

Published: 29 January 2014

Abstract

Background

Research collaboration contributes to the advancement of knowledge by exploiting the results of scientific efforts more efficiently, but the global patterns of collaboration on meta-analysis are unknown. The purpose of this research was to describe and characterize the global collaborative patterns in meta-analyses of randomized trials published in high impact factor medical journals over the past three decades.

Methods

This was a cross-sectional, social network analysis. We searched PubMed for relevant meta-analyses of randomized trials published up to December 2012. We selected meta-analyses (including at least randomized trials as primary evidence source) published in the top seven high impact factor general medical journals (according to Journal Citation Reports 2011): The New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet, the BMJ, JAMA, Annals of Internal Medicine, Archives of Internal Medicine (now renamed JAMA Internal Medicine), and PLoS Medicine. Opinion articles, conceptual papers, narrative reviews, reviews without meta-analysis, reviews of reviews, and other study designs were excluded.

Results

Overall, we included 736 meta-analyses, in which 3,178 authors, 891 institutions, and 51 countries participated. The BMJ was the journal that published the greatest number of articles (39%), followed by The Lancet (18%), JAMA (15%) and the Archives of Internal Medicine (15%). The USA, the UK, and Canada headed the absolute global productivity ranking in number of papers. The 64 authors and the 39 institutions with the highest publication rates were identified. We also found 82 clusters of authors (one group with 55 members and one group with 54 members) and 19 clusters of institutions (one major group with 76 members). The most prolific authors were mainly affiliated with the University of Oxford (UK), McMaster University (Canada), and the University of Bern (Switzerland).

Conclusions

Our analysis identified networks of authors, institutions and countries publishing meta-analyses of randomized trials in high impact medical journals. This valuable information may be used to strengthen scientific capacity for collaboration and to help to promote a global agenda for future research of excellence.

Keywords:
Authorship; Evidence-based medicine; Meta-analysis; Randomized controlled trial; Scientific collaboration; Social network analysis