Critical assessment of progress of medical sciences in Iran and Turkey: the way developing countries with limited resources should make effective contributions to the production of science

Sadegh Massarrat, Shadi Kolahdoozan
Archives of Iranian Medicine 2011, 14 (6): 370-7

BACKGROUND: Scientific progress is an important indicator for the social and economic developments of any country. According to various reports, worldwide, Iran has the most growth in the field of science due to a high increase in the numbers of publications during the past decade. The aim of this study is to assess not only the quantity, but also the quality of publications of indexed Iranian journals and compare them to Turkey, as an Islamic neighboring country, in addition to the contributions of these two countries to our knowledge. A number of international journals with high impact factors were selected to assess the contributions of scientists from Iran and Turkey to the medical sciences.

METHODS: English medical journals from Iran and Turkey indexed by the ISI Web of Sciences with known impact factors (IF) announced at the beginning of 2010 were included for evaluation. We calculated the number of all articles published from the beginning of 2007 until the October 2010, the number of total citations, and citations from authors outside both countries for each journal. In addition, we selected all articles cited at least six times by authors outside of both countries and discussed their content with regard to originality and novelty, as well as their contributions to current knowledge. Furthermore, 60 international journals in basic or clinical research with IF greater than 6 were selected for the magnitude of contributions of both countries to our scientific knowledge.

RESULTS: In 2010, out of a total of 21 Iranian journals indexed in ISI since 2007, only 12 have a known IF with a mean of 0.39 (range: 0.07-0.97), whereas out of 28 Turkish medical journals indexed in ISI, 15 have a known IF (mean: 0.35, range: 0.05-0.82). The total number of articles published since 2007 from Iran, total citations and total citations by authors from outside Iran were 2080, 1218, and 463, respectively. The same data related to Turkish journals were 4876, 2036, and 1331, respectively. Indeed, the mean citations per article by foreign authors for Iranian and Turkish researchers were 0.19 and 0.3, respectively. Of the total articles during this period, only seven from Iran and nine from Turkey have been cited at least six times by authors outside the two countries. Iran had 23 and Turkey 37 original publications in highly reputable international journals. Turkey was more represented in basic research and clinical observational studies than Iran.

CONCLUSION: Despite high numbers of published articles, both countries have medical journals with very low comparable citation rates and IF. Only one out of three Turkish articles is cited once by authors outside of Turkey and one of five Iranian articles is cited by authors outside Iran. The few high-cited articles address new therapies and interventional studies or diseases commonly encountered regionally, and are the results of the efforts of a few individuals in highly specialized fields. Turkish scientists are inclined to publish their scientific works more than Iranians in distinguished international journals. These articles deal more with regional diseases that are not common in Western countries. Developing countries can only contribute to world science when they focus their efforts on teamwork in order to research ways to solve country-specific diseases and their own health problems.

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