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A bibliometric analysis of toxicology research productivity in Middle Eastern Arab countries during a 10-year period (2003–2012)

  • Sa’ed H Zyoud1, 2, 3Email author,
  • Samah W Al-Jabi4,
  • Waleed M Sweileh2 and
  • Rahmat Awang3
Health Research Policy and Systems201412:4

https://doi.org/10.1186/1478-4505-12-4

Received: 25 December 2013

Accepted: 7 January 2014

Published: 21 January 2014

Abstract

Background

Bibliometric studies are increasingly being used for research assessment by involving the application of statistical methods to scientific publications to obtain the bibliographics for each country. The main objective of this study was to analyse the research productivity originating from 13 Middle Eastern Arab (MEA) countries with articles published in toxicology journals.

Methods

Data from January 1, 2003 till December 31, 2012 were searched for documents with specific words in the toxicology field as a “source title” in any one of the 13 MEA countries. Research productivity was evaluated based on a methodology developed and used in other bibliometric studies. Research productivity was adjusted to the national population and nominal gross domestic product (GDP) per capita.

Results

Documents (n = 1,240) were retrieved from 73 international peer-reviewed toxicology journals. The h-index of the retrieved documents was 39. Of the 73 journal titles, 52 (69.9%) have their IF listed in the ISI Journal Citation Reports 2012; 198 documents (16.0%) were published in journals that had no official IF. After adjusting for economy and population power, Egypt (193.6), Palestine (18.1), Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) (13.0), and Jordan (11.5) had the highest research productivity. Countries with large economies, such as the Kuwait, United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Oman, tended to rank relatively low after adjustment of GDP. The total number of citations at the time of data analysis (August 4, 2013) was 10,991, with a median (interquartile range) of 4 (1–11). MEA collaborated more with countries in the MEA regions (16.7%), especially KSA, Egypt, and UAE, followed by Europe (14.4%), especially with the United Kingdom and Germany.

Conclusions

The present data show a promising rise and a good start for toxicology research activity in toxicology journals in the Arab world. Research output is low in some countries, which can be improved by investing in more international and national collaborative research projects in the field of toxicology.

Keywords

BibliometricImpact factorMiddle Eastern ArabScopusToxicology

Background

Bibliometric studies are increasingly being used for research assessment [1] by involving the application of statistical methods to scientific publications to obtain the bibliographics for each country. These methods are mainly quantitative but are also used to make pronouncements about qualitative pictures of scientific activities [1, 2]. Scientific progress is one of the most important indicators for community and economic development of different countries [3]. Well-known databases, such as PubMed, Scopus, Web of Science (i.e., Thomson Reuters Institute for Scientific Information [ISI]), and Google Scholar index international publications in biomedical sciences [4].

Recently, several studies have measured and analysed the outcome of scientific output from Arab countries in different specialities [2, 510]. In contrast, the evolution of scientific output in the field of toxicology has been poorly explored to date and there are few internationally published reports on research activity in toxicology [1116]. To the best of our knowledge, there is a lack of data concerning the evaluation of research productivity in toxicology originating from the Arab world.

Thus, estimates of Arab productivity of ongoing research in the field of toxicology may be of interest. In this bibliometric analysis, we sought to evaluate the contribution of different Middle Eastern Arab (MEA) countries in the scientific research field as published in toxicology journals, and as represented by the quantity and quality of published papers. Bibliometric analysis is a useful tool to obtain information about the current state of research in particular areas and allows researchers to identify and undertake new lines of research [17]. This type of analysis is a research method used in library and information sciences and utilises quantitative analysis and statistics to obtain the bibliographical works within a given field, topic, institute, or country [1820]. The most important bibliometric indicators for research capacity and productivity include the number of publications, the amount of peer-reviewed scientific journal articles, the number of total citations, and the type of publications [2022]. Such a study will lead to a better understanding of the current and future status of toxicology in the Middle East. Furthermore, evaluation of toxicological research output in the Arab world is important for monitoring and improving this activity; this could help in putting research activities in the Arab countries into perspective.

Methods

This study obtained data from Scopus published from January 1, 2003 till December 31, 2012. It is assumed that the last decade would project a better picture of the pattern of publications and the citations received. A comprehensive online search was performed using SciVerse, Scopus, which is one of the world’s largest abstract and citation databases of peer-reviewed literature. Scopus contains 41 million records and covers nearly 18,000 titles from 5,000 publishers worldwide, and provides 100% MEDLINE coverage [23]. The Scopus database was developed by Elsevier and combines the characteristics of both Web of Science and PubMed. These characteristics allow for enhanced service for educational and academic needs, medical literature research, and bibliometric analysis. Scopus offers a basic search or an advanced search options. In the basic search, the results for the chosen keywords can be limited by the date of publication, by addition to Scopus, by subject area, and by document type [24]. The search output from Scopus can be presented as a list of 20 to 200 items per page, and extracted documents can be exported to Microsoft Office Excel®. The results can be refined by document type, author name, source title, publications per year, and/or subject area, and a new search can be initiated within the results [24].

The key words entered in Scopus to accomplish the objective of this study were “Toxicology”, “Toxicological”, and “Toxic”, “toxicon”, “toxin”, “toxins”, “ecotoxicology”, “nanotoxicology”, and “neurotoxicology” as Source Title. Then, all 13 Arab countries in the Middle East were entered as country affiliation (i.e., Egypt, Syrian Arab Republic [SAR], Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia [KSA], Kuwait, Bahrain, State of Palestine, United Arab Emirates [UAE], Yemen, Oman, and Qatar). The subject areas selected for this research were: health sciences, life sciences, social sciences, and physical sciences. The resultant search was as follows: your query: (SRCTITLE(toxicology) OR SRCTITLE(toxicological) OR SRCTITLE(toxic) OR SRCTITLE(toxicon) OR SRCTITLE(toxin) OR SRCTITLE(toxins) OR SRCTITLE(ecotoxicology) OR SRCTITLE(nanotoxicology) OR SRCTITLE(neurotoxicology) AND AFFILCOUNTRY(Jordan) OR AFFILCOUNTRY(Egypt) OR AFFILCOUNTRY(United Arab Emirates) OR AFFILCOUNTRY(Saudi Arabia) OR AFFILCOUNTRY(Palestine) OR AFFILCOUNTRY(Bahrain) OR AFFILCOUNTRY(Yemen) OR AFFILCOUNTRY(Syrian) OR AFFILCOUNTRY(Iraq) OR AFFILCOUNTRY(Kuwait) OR AFFILCOUNTRY(Oman) OR AFFILCOUNTRY(Lebanon) OR AFFILCOUNTRY(Qatar)) AND PUBYEAR >2002 AND PUBYEAR <2013. We excluded documents published as errata.

The collected data were used to generate the following information: (a) total and trends of contributions in toxicology fields between 2003 and 2012; (b) MEA authorship pattern and productivity; (c) collaboration patterns; (d) journals in which MEA researchers publish; (e) the classification of journals as ISI or non-ISI; (f) impact factors (IFs) of all publications; (g) number of citations received by the publications; and (h) areas of interest for published papers.

Ethical approval

Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval exemptions were obtained by authors from An-Najah National University. The IRB considered waiving the requirement to get approval exemptions for protocols that were clearly below minimal risk, and the current research did not involve any interactions with human participants and used a secondary data set.

Statistical analysis

Data from Scopus were exported to Excel and then to the Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS; SPSS Inc., Chicago, IL, USA) program version 15 for analysis. Continuous data are presented as mean ± standard deviation (SD), and categorical data are expressed as numbers with percentages. Variables that are not normally distributed are expressed as median (Q1–Q3: interquartile range). The h-index for the data collected from SCOPUS is presented. The h-index represents the number of citations received for each of the articles in descending order and the h-graph measures the impact of a set of documents and displays the number of citations per article. The journal’s IF was evaluated using the Journal Citation Report (JCR; Web of Knowledge) 2012 science edition by Thomson Reuters (New York, NY, USA). Publication activity was adjusted for the 13 MEA countries categorized by population size and gross domestic product (GDP) retrieved from the online databases of the World Bank [25]. An adjustment index (AI) was calculated using the following formula: AI = [total number of publications for the country/GDP per capita of the country]*1,000. Where GDP per capita = GDP/population of the country [5].

Results

The total number of documents which were published in toxicology journals obtained by entering the word “toxicology” and related terms in the Scopus search engine as a source title without specifying the name of any country was 74,468 documents. This number represents the total global research productivity in toxicological journals during the past decade. Using the methodology stated above, only 1,240 (1.66% from the total global research productivity in toxicology journals) documents from 13 MEA countries were retrieved, comprising 1,158 (93.4%) original journal articles; 33 (2.7%) review articles; 27 (2.2%) meeting/conference abstracts; 12 (1.0%) letters; and 10 (0.8%) other types of publications, with an average of 124 documents per year. According to Scopus, the 13 MEA countries produced 60,477 biomedical publications during 2003–2012, which is around 49 times higher than those produced in toxicology journals.

Table 1 shows the annual number of documents published in the past decade (2003–2012). The results indicate that publications in toxicology journals during the past decade were low in the first few years but showed an obvious doubling after 2009. The quantity of publications has increased by around three-fold from 2003 to 2012.
Table 1

Annual number of toxicology-based publications in 13 Middle Eastern Arab countries

Year

Total

 

n = 1240 (%)

2003

83 (6.7)

2004

85 (6.9)

2005

56 (4.5)

2006

81 (6.5)

2007

91 (7.3)

2008

101 (8.1)

2009

139 (11.2)

2010

193 (15.6)

2011

197 (15.9)

2012

214 (17.3)

The retrieved documents were published in 73 international peer-reviewed toxicology journals out of 102 peer-reviewed toxicology journals registered in Scopus (Table 2); 143 articles (11.5%) were published in Food and Chemical Toxicology whereas 72 (5.8%) were published in the Journal of Environmental Science and Health, Part A: Toxic Hazardous Substances and Environmental Engineering, and 71 (5.7%) were published in the Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology journal. This was followed by 63 (5.1%) published in Toxicological and Environmental Chemistry, 46 (3.7%) published in Toxicon, 45 (3.6%) published in Toxicology, and 41 (3.3%) published in Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety. Of the 73 journal titles, 52 (69.9%) have their IF listed in the JCR 2012; 198 documents (16.0%) were published in journals that had no official IF (Table 2). Only 21documents were published in the three journals with an IF >5.
Table 2

List of journals in which the 1,240 documents were published with their corresponding impact factors

Journal

Frequency

IF (2012)*

Food and Chemical Toxicology

143

3.01

Journal of Environmental Science and Health, Part A: Toxic Hazardous Substances and Environmental Engineering

72

1.252

Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology

71

1.105

Toxicological and Environmental Chemistry

63

NA

Toxicon

46

2.924

Toxicology

45

4.017

Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety

41

2.203

Journal of Applied Toxicology

37

2.597

Mutation Research Genetic Toxicology and Environmental Mutagenesis

37

2.22

Toxicology and Industrial Health

37

1.555

Environmental Toxicology and Pharmacology

36

2.005

Basic and Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology

34

2.124

Human and Experimental Toxicology

33

1.453

Journal of Biochemical and Molecular Toxicology

30

1.596

Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology C: Toxicology and Pharmacology

28

2.707

American Journal of Pharmacology and Toxicology

28

NA

Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology

27

3.975

Toxicology Letters

24

3.145

Research Journal of Environmental Toxicology

22

NA

Archives of Toxicology

19

5.215

Neurotoxicology

19

2.652

Toxicology In Vitro

19

2.65

Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology

17

2.012

Drug and Chemical Toxicology

16

1.293

Journal of Toxicological Sciences

15

1.380

Journal of Pharmacology and Toxicology

15

NA

Chemical Research in Toxicology

14

3.667

Toxicology Mechanisms and Methods

13

1.367

Inhalation Toxicology

12

1.894

Journal of Venomous Animals and Toxins Including Tropical Diseases

12

0.545

Aquatic Toxicology

11

3.73

Reproductive Toxicology

11

3.141

Practice Periodical of Hazardous Toxic and Radioactive Waste Management

11

NA

Toxicological Sciences

10

4.328

Clinical Toxicology

10

2.592

Indian Journal of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology

10

NA

Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry

9

2.618

International Journal of Toxicology

9

1.346

Environmental Toxicology

8

2.708

Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health Part A: Current Issues

8

1.733

Journal of Toxicology

8

NA

Journal of Pharmacological and Toxicological Methods

7

2.150

Journal of Analytical Toxicology

7

2.107

Birth Defects Research Part B Developmental and Reproductive Toxicology

7

1.971

Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology

6

1.403

Cutaneous and Ocular Toxicology

6

1.044

Forensic Toxicology

5

3.194

Journal of Environmental Pathology Toxicology and Oncology

5

0.919

Toxicological Research

5

NA

Toxicology International

5

NA

Ecotoxicology

4

2.773

Cell Biology and Toxicology

4

2.338

Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology

4

2.132

Toxins

4

2.129

Internet Journal of Toxicology

4

NA

Journal of Medical Toxicology

4

NA

Veterinary and Human Toxicology

4

NA

Journal of Environmental Science and Health Part C: Environmental Carcinogenesis and Ecotoxicology Reviews

3

3.565

Neurotoxicology and Teratology

3

3.181

Interdisciplinary Toxicology

3

1.346

Journal of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology

3

NA

Expert Opinion on Drug Metabolism and Toxicology

2

2.944

Cardiovascular Toxicology

2

2.351

International Journal of Medical Toxicology and Legal Medicine

2

NA

Journal of Hazardous Toxic and Radioactive Waste

2

NA

Toxicology and Environmental Health Sciences

2

NA

Particle and Fibre Toxicology

1

9.178

Nanotoxicology

1

7.844

Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology

1

4.125

International Journal of Toxicological and Pharmacological Research

1

NA

Research Communications in Pharmacology and Toxicology

1

NA

Research Journal of Toxins

1

NA

Therapeutics Pharmacology and Clinical Toxicology

1

NA

NA, Not available; IF, Impact factor.

*The IF was reported according to Institute for Scientific Information journal citation reports 2012.

When the data were analysed by country, the highest number of publications in toxicology journals was from Egypt (49.8%), followed by KSA (26.3), UAE (11.5%), and Jordan (4.8%) (Table 3). After adjusting for economy and population power, Egypt (193.6), Palestine (18.1), KSA (13.0), and Jordan (11.5) had the highest research productivity. Countries with large economies, such as the Kuwait, UAE, and Oman tended to rank relatively low after the adjustment of GDP (Table 3). The total number of citations, at the time of data analysis (August 4, 2013), was 10,991, with a mean ± SD of 8.8 ± 15.0 and median (interquartile range) of 4 (1–11). The highest median (interquartile range) number of citations was 9 (1.8–21) for Lebanon, followed by 7.5 (3–16) for UAE, 7 (3–14) for Oman. The lowest median (interquartile range) number of citations was 1 (0.0–3.8) for Iraq and 1 (0.0–5.5) for Qatar. Furthermore, the highest median (interquartile range) IF was 2.8 (2.1–3.0) for Lebanon, followed by 2.7 (1.3–3.1) for Oman, and the lowest median (interquartile range) IF was 1 (0.0–2.0) for Bahrain.
Table 3

Bibliometric analysis of the 1,240 documents by country

Country

Number of documents

Total citations

Median (Q1–Q3) citation

Total IF

Median (Q1–Q3) IF

H index

Number (%)b of documents indexed in ISI

Number (%)cof documents with international authors

Adjustment indexd

 

n =1,240a (%)a

        

Egypt

617 (49.8)

5702

4 (1–11)

1277

2.2 (1.1–3.0)

33

553 (89.6)

247 (40.0)

193.6

KSA

326 (26.3)

2098

3 (1–7.5)

631.6

2.0 (1.1–3.0)

21

291 (89.3)

179 (54.9)

13.0

UAE

142 (11.5)

1691

7.5 (3–16)

324.9

2.6 (1.4–3.0)

21

128 (90.1)

94 (66.2)

3.8

Jordan

57 (4.6)

217

2 (0–6)

76.7

1.3 (0.0–2.1)

8

46 (80.7)

33 (57.9)

11.5

Kuwait

60 (4.8)

471

4 (1.3–11)

100.5

1.4 (1.3–2.2)

13

56 (93.3)

26 (43.3)

1.2

Lebanon

46 (3.7)

893

9 (1.8–21)

121.7

2.8 (2.1–3.0)

14

43 (93.5)

25 (54.3)

4.7

Oman

34 (2.9)

538

7 (3–14)

82.8

2.7 (1.3–3.1)

11

30 (88.2)

25 (73.5)

1.6

Iraq

20 (1.6)

54

1 (0.0–3.8)

24.6

1.2 (0.0–1.8)

4

13 (65.0)

10 (50.0)

3.1

Palestine

18 (1.5)

128

3.5 (1.8–10.3)

33.1

2.1 (1.4–2.2)

6

17 (94.4)

11 (61.1)

18.1

Qatar

13 (1.0)

49

1 (0.0–5.5)

17.4

1.1 (0.0–2.8)

4

7 (53.8)

9 (69.2)

0.2

SAR

10 (0.8)

35

4 (1.5–5.3)

22.2

2.6 (1.7–3.0)

4

9 (90.0)

9 (90.0)

3.0

Yemen

9 (0.7)

66

5 (1.5–10)

15.2

2.0 (0.0–2.8)

5

7 (77.8)

9 (100)

6.0

Bahrain

4 (0.3)

7

2 (0.0–2.7)

4.25

1.0 (0.0–2.0)

2

3 (75.0)

1 (25)

0.2

IF, Impact factor; ISI,Institute for Scientific Information; UAE, United Arab Emirates; KSA, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; SAR, Syrian Arab Republic; Q1–Q3, Lower quartile – upper quartile.

aTotal exceeds 100% because data are overlapping due to multiple collaborations.

bPercentage of documents indexed in ISI from the total number of documents for each country.

cPercentage of documents with international authors from the total number of documents for each country.

dAn AI was calculated using the following formula: AI = [total number of publications for the country/GDP per capita of the country]*1,000. Where: GDP per capita = GDP/population of the country.

Of the 1,240 documents considered for the h-index, 39 had been cited at least 39 times at the time of data analysis (August 4, 2013). The highest h-index was 33 for Egypt, followed by 21 for KSA, 21 for the UAE, and the lowest h-index was 2 for Bahrain. The highest percentage of documents indexed in ISI from the total number of documents for each country was 99.4% for Palestine, followed by 93.5% for Lebanon, 93.3% for Kuwait, and the lowest was 53.8% for Qatar. Furthermore, regarding the countries that have the highest collaborations with international authors, all the documents from Yemen were published with international collaboration followed by documents from SAR (9/10, 90.0%).

The study identified 471 (38%) documents with 56 countries in MEA-foreign country collaborations. MEA actively collaborated with authors from the United States of America (n = 129, the highest number recorded), followed by the United Kingdom (n = 48), India (n = 48), Germany (n = 41), Canada (n = 36), France (n = 33), Japan (n = 29), China (n = 26), and Malaysia (n = 22) (Table 4). By region, MEA collaborated most with countries in Europe (14.4%), especially the United Kingdom and Germany (Table 4). Table 5 presents the areas of interest of the scientific articles. Pharmacology and pharmaceutics was the most researched topic, represented by 1,006 (81.1%) articles. The second most researched topic was environmental science 699 (56.4%) followed by agricultural and biological sciences 167 (13.5%) articles. On the other hand, topics such as chemistry or epidemiology and social sciences ranked low in their contribution to research output. Furthermore, Table 6 shows the first prolific toxicology authors from the 13 MEA countries with their affiliations and publication patterns. Table 7 presents a list of the 20 most cited articles originating from the 13 MEA countries.
Table 4

Collaborations between the 13 Middle Eastern Arab countries and foreign countries in toxicological publications

Collaborating countriesa

No. of documents

Collaborating countries a

No. of documents

MEA-MEA

116 (9.4% )

MEA-Asia-Pacific

137 (11.0% )*

Egypt

84

India

48

Saudi Arabia

79

Japan

29

United Arab Emirates

26

China

26

Kuwait

5

South Korea

15

Jordan

13

Pakistan

10

Lebanon

2

Taiwan

4

Oman

17

Australia

4

Qatar

9

New Zealand

3

Syrian Arab Republic

3

Bangladesh

2

Yemen

2

Hong Kong

2

Bahrain

1

New Caledonia

1

MEA-other Middle East, Africa

55 (4.4% )*

French Polynesia

1

Turkey

14

MEA-Europe

178 (14.4% )*

Iran

9

United Kingdom

48

Tunisia

8

Germany

41

Libyan Arab Jamahiriya

5

France

33

Sudan

5

Czech Republic

13

Ethiopia

4

Belgium

10

South Africa

3

Austria

9

Zimbabwe

3

Netherlands

8

Israel

2

Denmark

8

Algeria

2

Italy

8

Ghana

2

Spain

6

Guinea

1

Ireland

5

Nigeria

1

Sweden

5

Zambia

1

Finland

4

MEA-Americas

150 (12.1% )*

Switzerland

4

United States

129

Hungary

3

Canada

36

Bulgaria

1

Puerto Rico

2

Serbia

1

Brazil

1

Slovakia

1

MEA-Southeast Asia

25 (2.0% )*

Bosnia and Herzegovina

1

Malaysia

22

Romania

1

Thailand

2

Albania

1

Singapore

1

Poland

1

  

Croatia

1

MEA, Middle Eastern Arab countries.

aThe study identified 471 (38%) documents with 56 countries in MEA-foreign country collaborations.

*Total exceeds 38% as data are overlapping due to multi-country collaboration.

Table 5

Areas of interest for published papers by the 13 Middle Eastern Arab countries

Areas of interest

n (%)*

Pharmacology and Pharmaceutics

1006 (81.1)

Environmental Science

699 (56.4)

Agricultural and Biological Sciences

167 (13.5)

Medicine

165 (13.3)

Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology

115 (9.3)

Chemical Engineering

30 (2.4)

Neuroscience

22 (1.8)

Chemistry

17 (1.4)

Social Sciences and Epidemiology

15 (1.2)

Planetary Sciences

13 (1.1)

Immunology

12 (1.1)

Veterinary

4 (0.3)

*Total exceeds 100% as data are overlapping due to multidiscipline interaction.

Table 6

The first prolific toxicology authors from the 13 Middle Eastern Arab countries with their affiliations and publication patterns

Country

Total publications for the country

Author

No. (%)aof toxicology publications

Total publications for authorb

Affiliation

Egypt

617

Yousef, M.I.

29 (4.7)

41

Alexandria University, Department of Environmental Studies, Alexandria

KSA

326

Gondal, M.A.

25 (7.7)

124

King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, Department of Physics, Dharan, Saudi Arabia

UAE

142

Petroianu, G.A.

26 (18.3)

112

Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, United Arab Emirates University, Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, United Arab Emirates

Jordan

57

Maslat, A.O.

8 (14.0)

8

Yarmouk University, Department of Biological Sciences, Irbid, Jordan

Kuwait

60

Narayana, K.

7 (11.7)

47

Health Sciences Center Kuwait Faculty of Medicine, Department of Anatomy, Safat, Kuwait

Lebanon

46

Shihadeh, A.

12 (26.1)

32

American University of Beirut, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Beirut, Lebanon

Oman

34

Ali, B.H.

17 (50.0)

58

Sultan Qaboos University, Department of Pharmacology, Muscat, Oman

Iraq

20

Mohammad, F.K.

5 (25.0)

26

University of Mosul, Department of Physiology, Biochemistry and Pharmacology, Mosul, Iraq

Palestine

18

Zyoud, S.H.

6 (33.3)

49

Poison Control and Drug Information Center (PCDIC), College of Medicine and Health Sciences, An-Najah National University, Nablus, Palestine

Qatar

13

Busselberg, D.

3 (23.1)

3

Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, Doha, Qatar

SAR

10

Ahmed, S.

4 (40.0)

21

International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas Syria, Aleppo, Syrian Arab Republic

Yemen

9

Al-Zubairi, A.S.

2 (22.2)

29

Sana’a University, Faculty of Medicine, Sana’a, Yemen

Bahrain

4

Sequeira, R.P.

1 (25.0)

42

Arabian Gulf University, Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, Manama, Bahrain

UAE, United Arab Emirates; KSA, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; SAR, Syrian Arab Republic.

aPercentage of toxicology publications for the first prolific toxicology author from the total number of documents for each country.

bTotal of all publications for each author during the period of study.

Table 7

The top 20 cited toxicology articles from the 13 Middle Eastern Arab countries in Scopus

SCRa

Authors and year of publication

Title

Journal name

Times citedb

1st

Ali et al., 2008

Some phytochemical, pharmacological and toxicological properties of ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe): A review of recent research

Food and Chemical Toxicology

191

2nd

El-Demerdash et al., 2004

Cadmium-induced changes in lipid peroxidation, blood hematology, biochemical parameters and semen quality of male rats: protective role of vitamin E and β-carotene

Food and Chemical Toxicology

175

3rd

Shihadeh, 2003

Investigation of mainstream smoke aerosol of the argileh water pipe

Food and Chemical Toxicology

162

4th

El-Demerdash, 2005

Biochemical study on the hypoglycemic effects of onion and garlic in alloxan-induced diabetic rats

Food and Chemical Toxicology

153

5th

Shihadeh and Saleh, 2005

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, ‘tar’, and nicotine in the mainstream smoke aerosol of the narghile water pipe

Food and Chemical Toxicology

147

6th

Jurjus et al., 2004

Animal models of inflammatory bowel disease

Journal of Pharmacological and Toxicological Methods

124

7th

Badary et al., 2003

Thymoquinone is a potent superoxide anion scavenger

Drug and Chemical Toxicology

101

7th

Mohamed et al., 2003

Estimation of microcystins in the freshwater fish Oreochromis niloticus in an Egyptian fish farm containing a Microcystis bloom

Environmental Toxicology

101

9th

Ali and Al Moundhri, 2006

Agents ameliorating or augmenting the nephrotoxicity of cisplatin and other platinum compounds: a review of some recent research

Food and Chemical Toxicology

98

10th

Radwan and Salama, 2006

Market basket survey for some heavy metals in Egyptian fruits and vegetables

Food and Chemical Toxicology

82

11th

Ali, 2003

Agents ameliorating or augmenting experimental gentamicin nephrotoxicity: some recent research

Food and Chemical Toxicology

79

12th

Yousef, 2004

Aluminium-induced changes in hemato-biochemical parameters, lipid peroxidation and enzyme activities of male rabbits: protective role of ascorbic acid

Toxicology

77

13th

Yousef et al., 2006

Deltamethrin-induced oxidative damage and biochemical alterations in rat and its attenuation by Vitamin E

Toxicology

72

14th

Shalan et al., 2005

Amelioration of lead toxicity on rat liver with Vitamin C and silymarin supplements

Toxicology

71

15th

Abdel-Wahhab and Aly, 2005

Antioxidant property of Nigella sativa (black cumin) and Syzygium aromaticum (clove) in rats during aflatoxicosis

Journal of Applied Toxicology

69

16th

El-Sharaky et al., 2007

Protective role of selenium against renal toxicity induced by cadmium in rats

Toxicology

67

17th

Mansour, 2004

Pesticide exposure – Egyptian scene

Toxicology

61

17th

Yousef et al., 2003

Changes in some hematological and biochemical indices of rabbits induced by isoflavones and cypermethrin

Toxicology

61

19th

Raza and John, 2006

4-Hydroxynonenal induces mitochondrial oxidative stress, apoptosis and expression of glutathione S-transferase A4-4 and cytochrome P450 2E1 in PC12 cells

Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology

60

20th

Sepetdjian et al., 2008

Measurement of 16 polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in narghile waterpipe tobacco smoke

Food and Chemical Toxicology

57

SCR, Standard Competition Ranking.

aEqual articles have the same ranking number, and then a gap is left in the ranking numbers.

bTime cited at the time of data analysis (December 13, 2013).

Discussion

This study was limited to 1,240 documents extracted from Scopus, bearing MEA countries affiliation addresses and, therefore, cannot be generalised to the toxicological literature covered by other databases such as Google Scholar. However, the study does give a clear picture about the characteristics of the documents from MEA countries published in foreign indices, especially those indexed by Scopus. Although the number of citations for each publication might differ from one search engine to another, the Scopus search engine remains one of the best available tools for analysing and tracking citations, and comparing citations among different research groups and different institutions [26]. A study that compared PubMed, Scopus, Web of Knowledge, and Google Scholar has found that PubMed remains an important resource for clinicians and researchers, while Scopus covers a wider journal range and offers the capability for citation analysis [4, 2628].

In the present study, bibliometric indicators were used to describe scientific activity in the field of toxicology in 13 MEA countries during the last decade. Based on the authors’ knowledge, this is the first article to analyse the quantity and quality of toxicology-based research from the Arab world. Research indicators showed that research activity in this field was neglected in most MEA countries. The total publications found in Scopus between 2003 and 2012 showed a yearly increase. Most countries experienced increases in the absolute number of documents produced in the field of toxicology over time. Furthermore, the current study showed low research output in some countries. In our study, we compared the toxicological research performance in the MEA countries with that in non-MEA countries. The study shows that MEA countries are lagging behind in the number of toxicological research publications. Furthermore, they are also lagging behind when the number of toxicological publications in the MEA countries is compared with other biomedical research publications in the same region. Toxicology productivity has followed the general explosion in scientific productivity observed in the last decade and especially in recent years [5, 11, 13] as well as following the biomedical research performance in the Arab world in the last decades [5, 29, 30].

Bibliometric descriptors for documents published by toxicologists and in toxicology journals are presented in Tables 3 and 5. As can be seen, each country’s behaviour was different. Our study showed that there were some countries, such as Egypt and KSA, where their total toxicology productivity during this 10-year period was clearly higher than in the remaining countries. Previous studies reported that Egypt and KSA had the most biomedical publications among the Arab countries [29, 31]. Our results are similar, as these two countries had the highest number of toxicological research publications in the Arab world. In our study, the ranking of countries after adjusting for economy and population parameters differed conspicuously from those based on absolute production. After adjusting for economy and population power, Egypt, Palestine, KSA, and Jordan had the highest research productivity. We did not find any study similar to ours, thus we are unable to discuss this point in light of other results. However, some studies using the same tool for analysis have reported similar findings [5, 10, 29, 30, 32, 33]. Countries with rapidly growing economies, which results in more funding and investments for research, contribute to the tendency of increasing number of toxicology publications such as KSA. Based on our findings, besides GDP, population size is one of the main factors related to research productivity, as was observed for Egypt; this activity depended on population size, socio-economic status, or overall scientific activity of the country [11]. The annual number of documents published indicates that research productivity in toxicology journals during the past decade was low. Several studies have discussed the reasons leading to the scarcity of medical research in most Arab regions [5, 10, 29, 30]. These studies suggested that the regional conflict has been considered a main cause for the paucity of medical publications in some Arab countries. Furthermore, a lack of funding, freedom, and democracy may contribute to low scientific research output in the Arab world [10, 29, 30]. All these reasons have to be taken into consideration if the governments in the Arab regions wish to develop the status of their scientific research output.

In our study, the average citation rate for publications from MEA countries was 8.8 citations per article. This finding was consistent with general average citations of toxicological journals [15, 34]. Furthermore, this is slightly less than the average citation rate for most journals in other scientific disciplines [15, 34]. Overall, toxicology journals as a group have low citation numbers compared to other scientific disciplines. This is likely attributed to several facts. First, the number of researchers of toxicology is small, leading to relatively fewer publications being published in peer-reviewed toxicology journals compared with other disciplines. Second, the apparent narrow focus of toxicology journals may encourage researchers who have some connection to the field of toxicology to publish their results in journals that may have a larger audience than that of toxicology journals [15, 35]. This exact scenario was demonstrated in the emergency medicine literature by Callaham et al. [36]; they found that publications by emergency medicine researchers were cited more than two times as often when published in non-emergency medicine journals.

The results of this study showed that the most cited articles published from MEA countries were mainly those in the field of public health. It was very striking that three articles from the top 20 cited articles published from MEA countries were articles related to tobacco smoking. Smoking is considered a major risk factor for several major diseases including heart disease, cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and is also the most preventable cause of morbidity and mortality contributing to around half a million deaths every month, a condition that is definitely to worsen in the future [37]. Tobacco smoking is on rise and as a multi-disciplinary field of study; it has resulted in growing research that takes into account almost all those regions that have experienced the greatest increases in bioscience and healthcare science production.

In the current study, topics such as epidemiology and social sciences ranked low in their contribution to research output in the field of toxicology. One of the scientific challenges of toxicology in the Asian region is the limited availability of epidemiological information. This field of study is neglected in most countries. Unfortunately, most of the available epidemiological data in this region have been published in different formats, and some documents were extracted from files of poisoned patients while others from poison centres, in which the outcome and frequency of poisonings were different. Thus, a clear picture of poisoning epidemiology is necessary in this region [38]. Another possible explanation for this is the lack of peer reviewed local and regional journals that are indexed in Scopus. In 2012, there were 102 journals indexed under “toxicology”, but none of them belonged to MEA countries. Thus, MEA countries are recommended to establish peer-reviewed journals to promote science in middle- and low-income countries, which could be submitted for indexing in Scopus. Publication in Asia-specific or regional journals would hopefully serve as another milestone for toxicologists in the region and will promote research about epidemiological interests that have low priorities in higher-income countries’ journals [39].

While case reports are often the most read content of journals, and they significantly advance our understanding of a particular clinical toxicology syndrome, treatment, mechanism, or are supportive of a new hypothesis [34] or serve as early warning signals for the adverse effects of new drugs and unique clinical presentations from common drugs [40], they were ranked low in their contribution to research output in the field of toxicology from MEA countries. One possible explanation for this is the low number of publications from MEA countries which were published in clinical or human toxicology journals. The results of our study showed that Food and Chemical Toxicology, Journal of Environmental Science and Health, Part A: Toxic Hazardous Substances and Environmental Engineering, Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology journal, Toxicological and Environmental Chemistry, Toxicon, Toxicology, and Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety have the largest share from MEA countries’ publications. These journals were more interested in areas of environmental science, agricultural and biological sciences, biochemistry, genetics and molecular biology, and chemical engineering rather than clinical cases.

It is noteworthy that some MEA authors have succeeded in publishing in high-quality journals like Particle and Fibre Toxicology, Archives of Toxicology, Toxicological Sciences, Nanotoxicology, and Toxicology. International collaborations might help MEA researchers to publish in journals with a high IF. Comparing toxicology to areas such as molecular biology and genetics, where new discoveries are made almost every day, toxicology is a more slowly advancing science. This can result in wide disparities between the citations of journals in different fields in comparison to a journal with a narrow field [34]. This may be one reason why journals like The Lancet, JAMA, Nature, Science, and the New England Journal of Medicine, whose content encompasses the entire scope of medicine and science, are always among the journals with the highest citations, which in turn leads to high IFs. Since toxicology is a very narrow field with a very small and specialized readership, it should not be astonishing that toxicology journals have small numbers of citations, which leads to average IFs [15, 41]. Therefore, it would have been more interesting to know how the growth of toxicology in these countries was in quality rather than in quantity, as shown by the low median citations and IFs. The preparation of quality research documents requires significant effort and time. Publishing in high-impact journals allows established researchers to be able to obtain further funding to support collaborative research and for young researchers to be more competitive in career advancement [42].

Moreover, MEA authors mainly collaborated with authors from the United States of America, India, United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, China, France, Japan, and Malaysia. This may be because most MEA academics graduated from or were trained in these countries. Investigators who are open to collaborations and those who seem to adequately manage their collaborations produce a superior product that results in a higher impact and higher citation rates [43]. The factors in favour of increasing collaborations internationally cannot be ignored; these are the results of easier access to public financing, opportunities to attain higher productivity, and aspirations for greater prestige and visibility resulting from collaboration with renowned research groups [44, 45]. In addition to these advantages of collaboration, follow-up research expertise of other countries, developed or developing, is another key factor for facilitating applicable and translatable research in countries that historically lack it.

This study shows the first prolific toxicology authors from the 13 MEA countries with their affiliations and publication patterns, indicating their active roles as writers. In most universities worldwide, promotional criteria require academics to show their active involvement in research as reflected by the ranking as first prolific toxicology authors. Often the Deanship of Scientific Research will be asked by university administrators to provide such evidence and the analysis of the names of productive authors becomes necessary. The improvement of some institutes may be attributed to the emphasis by universities for academics to publish in journals indexed by the ISI databases and Scopus. Information about trends and productivity reveals the intellectual output of toxicology works published in Scopus and is useful to university administrators when evaluating the yearly performance of university faculties in the light of university rankings among Arab universities.

In most MEA countries, the underdevelopment of toxicology is primarily due to improper educational policies. This region still lacks well-defined and elaborate postgraduate toxicology programmes at the university level, and there is a shortage of human resources in this field. Therefore, the formulation of a life sciences curriculum that comprises basic and applied toxicology and environmental sciences-related subject matter is needed. Recently, most institutes of education in MEA countries have undertaken a few important steps in this direction. Young researchers in MEA countries understand the principles of toxicology only at higher degree levels, that is, doctoral degree or postgraduate programmes. Therefore, the sharing of relevant research questions by developed and developing countries can lead to research opportunities [46]. Lastly, developing a culture of research in MEA countries, led by a researcher with an expertise in biostatistics and epidemiology, and who may be based in academia, is another necessary key to having a sustained productive research effort [46].

This study is not without limitations, most of which are the same as those of studies performed in other biomedical fields. First of all, we used Scopus criteria for including toxicology journals in our study. Articles published in non-Scopus-cited journals were not included; however, they might contribute to scientific productivity. In addition, we searched only for journals included in the “Toxicology”-related term of SCOPUS, although many articles in the toxicology field are published in other toxicology journals, with a wider field of interest, such as medicine and pharmacology. Furthermore, some conference abstracts may be published by certain journals which may be then published in the same or different journals in different year as original journal articles. Another limitation is that some international journals do not recognise countries like Palestine as a separate country and publications from Palestine may be affiliated with Israel as a country. Therefore, some publications from Palestine might be missed from our analysis.

Conclusions

This study, to our knowledge, is the first detailed analysis of the research publication output in the field of toxicology of an institution setting in MEA countries. This paper’s main goal is to direct attention and to open the doors for a scientific discussion among toxicology professionals and academics. The present data show a promising rise and a good start for toxicology research activity in toxicology journals from the Arab world. Research output is low in some countries, which can be improved by investing in more international and national collaborative research projects in the field of Toxicology. Epidemiology of poisoning or case reports in toxicology are neglected in the MEA region. Most toxicology aspects, such as epidemiological data, are suitable for regional journals rather than international journals. Thus, MEA countries are recommended to establish peer-reviewed journals to promote science in middle- and low-income countries that could be submitted for indexing in Scopus.

Abbreviations

AI: 

Adjustment index

GDP: 

Gross domestic product

IF: 

Impact factor

IRB: 

Institutional review board

ISI: 

Institute for Scientific Information

JCR: 

Journal citation reports

KSA: 

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

MEA: 

Middle Eastern Arab

SAR: 

Syrian Arab Republic

UAE: 

United Arab Emirates.

Declarations

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank An-Najah National University for giving the opportunities to access most recent information sources such as Scopus database.

Authors’ Affiliations

(1)
Poison Control and Drug Information Center (PCDIC), College of Medicine and Health Sciences, An-Najah National University
(2)
Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, College of Medicine and Health Sciences, An-Najah National University
(3)
WHO Collaborating Centre for Drug Information, National Poison Centre, Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM)
(4)
Department of Clinical and Community Pharmacy, College of Medicine and Health Sciences, An-Najah National University

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Copyright

© Zyoud et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2014

This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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