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Recent decades have seen an increase in publications in English from the international community in basic science journals, as well as in general and specialty medical journals.1,2,3,4,5,6 However, to date, no one has examined the international publishing trends in gastroenterology and hepatology journals. We examined the extent of internationalisation in this field with regard to high‐quality research publications over the period 1970–2005. Additionally, earlier studies discussing internationalisation of biomedical literature did not deal with the impact of multinational collaborations (articles involving authors from two or more countries). Thus, our secondary aim was to describe changes in multinational research publications during this period.
We reviewed the three highest‐ranked gastroenterology journals based on journal impact factor and total literature citations for 2005: Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Gut.7 We collected data for every fifth year over the period 1970–2005. All issues (January through December) of the journals were retrospectively reviewed for each of the selected years, and all basic and clinical research articles involving original investigation were analysed. The nation of origin of each article was assigned based on the affiliation of its investigators. Additionally, articles were classified as national or international, with national articles defined as those published by authors from the country of publication for the journal (Gastroenterology and Hepatology—USA; Gut—UK); international articles were those published by authors from all other countries.
A total of 3769 research articles published in the two US‐based journals and 1589 articles published in Gut were analysed. Figure 1A1A shows the proportion of national and international publications for the three journals collectively. The proportion of international articles in the journals increased significantly from 31.0% of all articles in 1970 to 67.6% in 2005. The countries most responsible for the increases in international publications were Germany (0.3% of all articles in 1970, rising to 9.9% in 2005), Japan (0.3 to 9.8%), France (0.7 to 6.1%) and Italy (0.3 to 5.3%). When journals were considered individually, the internationalisation of Gut was the most dramatic, with international articles representing 34.4% of all articles in 1970 and 83.4% in 2005.
A significant increase in the number of multinational collaborative publications occurred during the study period. For example, in 1970, collaborations comprised 0.7% of all research articles in Gut, compared with 6.8% in 1990 and 24.6% in 2005. Similar trends were seen in Gastroenterology and Hepatology (fig 1B1B).
Our findings demonstrate the dramatic internationalisation of authorship of research articles in the leading gastroenterology journals since 1970. Additionally, they raise the question, “What are the reasons for the decline in American and British dominance of gastrointestinal research?”
Potential explanations abound and are primarily speculative; however, editors of the American journals have described a definitive increase in international manuscript submissions and declining share from the US since 1995.8,9,10 Possible causes for changes in the number of international submissions, and subsequent publications, include incentives to publish findings in prestigious English‐language journals, increased English proficiency of international authors and the advent of electronic submissions. Although electronic submissions make it faster and easier for all authors to submit their work for publication, the impact on international authors is probably greater, helping them overcome barriers of time, distance and money. Furthermore, electronic submissions have made multinational collaborations much easier by providing the ability to incorporate investigators from multiple countries, which offers numerous advantages.
One major concern raised by our data is that the observed changes reflect a decline in American and British gastroenterology research. It is imperative that future studies be directed at identifying and correcting deficiencies hindering the growth of American and British gastroenterological science.
Competing interests: None declared.