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Table of Contents
RESEARCH ARTICLE
Year : 2019  |  Volume : 56  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 70-77

Unravelling the trends of research on malaria in India through bibliometric analysis


1 MSc School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom
2 Alliance Manchester Business School, University of Manchester, Manchester, United Kingdom

Date of Submission02-Mar-2019
Date of Web Publication7-May-2019

Correspondence Address:
Upasana Shyamsunder Singh
PhD student, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Manchester, Manchester-M139PT
United Kingdom
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/0972-9062.257779

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  Abstract 

Background & objectives: With the development of technological know-how, in recent years, malaria research in India has advanced to a great extent and the corresponding research is being translated into the form of publications, which has started to pile in thousands over the years. The purpose of the present study was to perform a bibliometric analysis on malaria research in India from its inception.
Methods: The Web of Science (WoS) platform developed by Clarivate Analytics was utilized to retrieve publications on malaria research in India. The publications were retrieved in bibtex format and were further used for analysis in “R” Bibliometrix package. The analysis included number of publications in each year along with their keywords, title, authors, institutes, abstract, journal name and countries.
Results: A total of 2334 publications on malaria in India were obtained from 1909 to 2019 (March). The emerging trends on themes of malaria research in India were unraveled with the help of keywords co-occurrence network analysis. The bibliometric analysis shed light on the evolution of journals and trends on choice of journals that the authors made over the years and the contribution of different countries in malaria research.
Interpretation & conclusion: The bibliometric analysis performed over 110 yr not only contributes towards understanding the trends based on research topics, but also on the importance of data science. Assuming the fact that the number of publications would increase from thousands to lakhs in future; going forward, it has become imperative for the researchers and students to develop methods using computer-based algorithms and carry out literature review which allows for in-depth study of vast amount of literature.

Keywords: Bibliometrics, India, keyword co-occurrence, malaria


How to cite this article:
Singh US, Mahanty S. Unravelling the trends of research on malaria in India through bibliometric analysis. J Vector Borne Dis 2019;56:70-7

How to cite this URL:
Singh US, Mahanty S. Unravelling the trends of research on malaria in India through bibliometric analysis. J Vector Borne Dis [serial online] 2019 [cited 2019 Jun 26];56:70-7. Available from: http://www.jvbd.org/text.asp?2019/56/1/70/257779




  Introduction Top


Malaria is an age-old disease in human kind and probably the most well-known in human history[1],[2]. Over the years, malaria has killed hundreds of thousands of humans throughout the tropical and sub-tropical parts of the globe, especially in Africa, Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia and South America[3]. In the 19th Century when India was under the rule of British empire, many developmental activities were carried out such as irrigation, railway lines, construction of roads, etc., which led to increase in the incidences of malaria. Such recurrent episodes of malaria grabbed major attentions of many and malaria emerged as an autonomous field of research in India. Consequently, this led to a committee being appointed in 1840’s to examine the connection between developmental activities and malaria[4]. After that, it was followed by great discoveries made by Laveran and Ronald Ross in 19th Century in British India that revealed mosquito bites by Anopheles carrying a parasite called Plasmodium was the causative agent of malaria[5]. These discoveries further paved ways to the all India conference on the transmission of malaria aimed at discussing strategies for malaria prevention in 1900 and 1909[4].

In the early 19th century, the outcome of research on malaria was evident from the publications in that stage, although limited. Since then, research has focused on eliminating the disease by 2030[6],[7],[8]. In the process, many academic articles were/ and are being published on this subject. Metaphorically speaking, like there are checkpoints in the cell cycle that decide whether or not to go ahead to the next stage, on similar lines, research needs to be evaluated to provide the basis for analysis and evaluation of the research performances. These checkpoints are the none other than the stakeholders in the research process such as head of institutes, ministries, government bodies, policy makers, funding agencies, etc. Considering the expanse of data accumulated in the form of academic publications on the topic of “Malaria research in India”, these checkpoints could potentially perform regular research evaluation based on publications over the years which could reveal novel findings along with providing an overview to the scientific community on the length and breadth of research that has been conducted over the years.

The development of research on malaria in India in the last 110 yr reflects the inception, growth, and maturity of different research dimensions in this field. It is of interest to understand the plurality of perspectives with respect to malaria studies in India and how research has evolved over the years. Given the limited cognitive capacity of the human brain, it is difficult to analyze over 2300 research papers spanning from 1909 to 2019 (March) and develop an understanding of malaria research in India. Hence, an automated computer-driven approach has been taken to understand the field from a temporal perspective. The research question to be addressed is — How has the focus of academic research related to malaria in India developed over the last 110 yr? This will be assessed based on three parameters, (i) magnitude of publications, (ii) journals where articles have been published, and (iii) collaboration networks with countries and keyword co-occurrences. For this, a science mapping tool, biblio-metrics is used.


  Material & Methods Top


The purpose of this study is to share a holistic view of all research on malaria in India, particularly centering on the magnitude of publications, journals, country collaborations and keyword co-occurrences which will eventually help in understanding the knowledge network of the research field. The bibliometric analysis provides a basis to evaluate developments in knowledge on a specific subject and assesses the scientific influence of researchers and sources. For this, a ‘R’ software, called “bibliometrix R package”[9] has been developed for this specific purpose to conduct quantitative research in bibliometrics for academic research. This bibliometric study is based on a systematic bibliographic analysis of the literature related to the central study theme, and the following sequence was followed: (i) Define the search criteria, keywords, and time periods; (ii) Selection of Web of Science database; (iii) Full export of result in bibtex format; and (ix) Analysis of the information and discussion of the results.

Data collection was performed by extracting all articles using the keywords “Malaria” AND “India” from Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science (WoS)[10] online database system. Academic researchers have attained mutual consensus that WoS has a robust database pertaining to academic literature and has been used extensively by researchers to conduct such quantitative analysis across a range of studies spanning different areas of research[11],[12],[13],[14]. This system retrieves enriched metadata of the literature on diverse topics indexed in Social Science Citation Index®, Science Citation Index, Arts and Humanities Citation Index®, Index Chemicus®, and Current Chemical Reactions® covering all the core journals and > 90 countries in the world[15]. To gather the referential information from the system, this study selected “Malaria” AND “India” as the topic, ‘article’ as the document type, ‘English’ as the language. The output was exported in BibTex format and was converted to a data frame through a function in bibliometrix.

The top 10 journals and country collaborations, which have published articles on malaria in India, are extracted based on the code below:

Top 10 journal publications code

M<- convert2df (D, dbsource=“isi”, format=“bibtex”)

results<- biblio Analysis (M, sep=“;”)

S<- summary (object=results, k=10, pause=FALSE)

Top 10 country collaboration network code

M<- metaTagExtraction (M, Field=“AU_CO”, sep=“;”)

NetMatrix<-biblioNetwork (M, analysis=“collaboration”,

network= “countries”, sep=“;”, label size=0.5)

Co-word analysis: Co-word analysis was used and the co-occurrences of keywords or terms extracted from the title, abstract or body of a document was performed. This study examined co-occurrence networks of authors’ keywords using the following code (where M refers to the bibliometrix object):

NetMatrix<-biblioNetwork (M, analysis=“co-occurrences”, network=“author_keywords”, sep=“;”) networkPlot (NetMatrix, normalize=“association”, weighted=T, n = 30, Title=“Keyword Co-occurrences”, type= “fruchterman”, size=T, edgesize=5, labelsize=0.7)


  Results Top


In this study, we collated publications from Web of Science (WoS) platform using the key-words “malaria” AND “India”. In all, 2334 publication records appeared since 1909 to 2019 (March) [Table 1]. To be noted that publications from 2019 (19 publications) were not included for analysis in [Figure 1]. Publications were very few since 1909 and the first prominent peak was seen only in 1991. For example, there were only five publications in 1990, which increased to 18 in 1991. Since 2002 (25) onwards increase in publication was observed until 2013 (179). The majority of the articles were published in the year 2016 (189) albeit, there was a downfall seen in subsequent years by 20 publications in 2017 (169) and 38 publications in 2018 (131).
Figure 1: Graph representing number of publications in each year from 1909 to 2018 as retracted from Web of Science database using keywords, “malaria” AND “India”.

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Table 1: Details of 2334 publications retracted from Web of Science database that are categorized into five time periods for bibliometric analysis. The segregation is based on important events relating to malaria research in India

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For further analysis, publications from the year 1955 to 2019 (March) were considered, as there were only 16 publications before that period. Based on the policies and notable events that occurred, we have divided a total of 2318 publications into four consecutive time periods [Table 1]. The number of publications in each of the four periods is also mentioned in the [Table 1]. Data from WoS was downloaded in the Bibtex format and was used for analysis using R package with slight modifications. The results and graphs obtained were based on keywords, authors, date of publication, journal, and countries from which articles were published.

Role of countries contributing to malaria research in India

[Figure 2] describes the articles published by different countries over a period from 1955–2019 either as a single country publication (SCP) or as multiple country publications (MCP). To be noted, figure two represents only the list of top 10 countries contributing majorly to the publications based on malaria in India in each period. Needless to mention, India contributed most to SCP/MCP. However, it is important to note that in the period 1955–1996 about half of the publications was published in collaboration with other countries. This trend was found to be declining from 1997 till 2015, although, it gained momentum in the fourth period (2016–2019). Among, the degree of contribution by other countries with respect to malaria research in India that we see as MCP in the first bar [Figure 2]a United Kingdom (UK) seemed to have actively participated in publication related to malaria research in India during the post-independence period until 1996. However, this trend significantly declined over the years and was replaced by the United States of America (USA) in the subsequent years [Figure 2]b and [Figure 2]c. Further, UK, USA, France, Canada and to some extent Switzerland started publishing in both SCP and MCP across all the periods. However, the Netherlands, Turkey, Cuba, and Belgium contributed more in 1955–1996 but publications on malaria in India declined significantly post that. Since 1997, Japan, Australia, Sri Lanka, and Thailand were seen to publish on malaria research in India of which only Australia continued to contribute till 2019. In the third period (2008–15), Iran, Brazil, Pakistan was publishing only in this period [Figure 2]c. Interestingly, Italy has only recently started publishing on Indian malaria research as MCP/SCP [Figure 2]d.
Figure 2: Schematic representation of the 10 most productive countries that contributed to publications on malaria research in India either as single country publication (SCP) (in ) or multiple country publication (MCP) (in ) in four time periods–(a) Countries contributing to the publication either as SCP or MCP from 1955–1996, (b) 1997–2008, (c) 2009–2015, and (d) 2016–2019 (March).

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Trends in choice of journal for publication of articles on malaria in India

A clustered bar graph representing the choice of journals where majority of papers were published from 1955–2019 is represented in [Figure 3]. To be noted that data for the journal name includes only top 10 in the list where most of the authors published their papers in each of the four periods. There could be papers that are published in other journals in that period however, this entails that the number of publications in those journals was not substantial to appear as top 10 in the list. The graph also represents four different periods with a different colour of bars and the impact factor of the journals in parenthesis. It is apparent from the graph that publication numbers were less in the first two periods although in a different set of journals. For example, the papers in the first period 1955–1996 were published in Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association, Lancet, Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (TRSTMH), and Medical & Veterinary Entomology. However, this trend discontinued and over the second period (1997–2008) most of the articles were published in different set of journals like American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (AJTMH) followed by Annals of Tropical Medicine and Parasitology and Current Science. Only TRSTMH continued to be the popular choice of journal for publication in the second period. In the third period (2009–2015) authors had chosen a new set of journals such as Malaria Journal, Journal of Vector Borne Diseases (JVBD), Acta Tropica and PLoS One. Further, in the fourth period (2016–2019) most of the publications appeared in Parasites & Vectors, International Journal of Infectious Diseases, and Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic research that were never the authors choice before. Interestingly, many authors still had continued to publish in Malaria Journal, PloS One and AJTMH. Considering all the periods there were few journals that were actively publishing academic literature on malaria research in India in certain time periods, for example, Lancet, Social Science and Medicine and Annals of Human Genetics, were active in terms of malaria research in India during 1955–1996. Similarly, Annals of Tropical Medicine and Parasitology, Current Science was mostly active during 1997–2008. Adding on to this, Parasitology Research witnessed many publications during 2009–2015. It is good to see that Indian Journal of Medical Research is the only journal in which papers were published in all time periods over the years. Intriguingly, Malaria Journal has exceptionally gained attention ever since 1997 and continues to be of choice until 2019.
Figure 3: Clustered bar graph of 10 most preferred journals where maximum of the papers where published in each of the four time periods, viz. 1955–1996 (in ); 1997–2008 (); 2009–2015 (); 2016–2019 March (). The journals where all the 4 bars are clustered together (e.g. Indian Journal of Medical Research) records publications in all the four time periods as oppose to preferred choices seen in different periods for other journals with one or two bars.

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Network analysis of keywords co-occurrence in the publications

Network analysis of key-words mentioned by authors and the and co-keywords assigned by the Web of Science platform is graphically represented in [Figure 4]a,[Figure 4]b,[Figure 4]c,[Figure 4]d for different time periods. These networks are representative of knowledge networks pertaining to malaria research in India. Each link between the bubbles represents their cooccurrence in a particular document. For example, if the bubble with name children is connected to malaria and antibodies, this means that studies based on antibodies in children with respect to malaria were published. The size of the bubble represents the proportion of the keyword in the corpus that is being studied.
Figure 4: Network analysis for key word co-occurrence in the publications in four time periods. The networks between the two bubbles represent their co-occurrence and the size of the bubble relates to the number of times that key word has appeared in all the publications during that time interval–(a) 1955–1996; (b) 1997–2008; (c) 2009–2015; and (d) 2016–2019.

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In this regard, apart from the key-words “malaria” and “India”, the most frequent keyword was Plasmodium falciparum which constantly appeared in all the periods for obvious reasons. Further, during the first period (1955–1996) keywords such as antibodies, epitope, DDT, Tribal population, enzyme, and erythrocytes were exclusively detected. In the second period, new fields of research emerged that is evident with keywords like children, cerebral malaria, epidemiology, transmission, polymerase chain reaction, population. In the third period, the trend witnessed some new inclusion of keywords such as susceptibility, in-vitro, risk factors, burden. Similarly, in the fourth period (2016–2019) keywords such as P. vivax attained major attention. Also, there were keywords such as elimination, anemia, impact were seen during this period. To be noted that, the keyword “chloroquine” disappeared after 2015 this could be potentially attributed to the fact that we now have a different antimalarial to bother about i.e. artemisinin. Moreover, in vitro studies gained more impact only since 2009 and studies on children was seen only after 1997. It is important to note that bubble of keywords like “transmission” and “prevalence” was seen more over the years which means that these are the type of studies that were mostly published or carried out.

Apart from the bibliometric analysis, we have also tried to capture almost all the important events pertaining to malaria research in India from the search engines and the literature available [Table 2].
Table 2: Comprehensive review of important discoveries, policies and programmes launched with respect to malaria research in India

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  Discussion Top


In order to understand the state of the art of malaria research in India, we have carried out a comprehensive analysis of 110 yr through Bibliometrics. This study has tried to touch upon the malaria research with respect to quantity of publications in each year, collaboration from different countries, choice of journal for publication in each year and keywords analysis since 1909–2019.

As presented in [Figure 2], the Multiple Country Publication (MCP) was more during 1955–1996. This could possibly be attributed to the fact that resources for research funding were not ample, technology was missing, and knowledge dissemination was not appropriate and wide[16]. The UK continued to contribute more in the first period potentially due to the fact that British scientists made discoveries during the colonization period of India by the UK. However, the USA post 1997 replaced this scenario. It could be attributed to the fact that the first up-to date data on World malaria situation in 1994 was published in 1997 by World Health Organization[17],[18] that could have drawn attention towards research on malaria. Moreover, the presence of MCP could also be due to PhD’s or post doctorates who work in sandwich programs or collaborative studies contributing their publications in the form of MCPs. Further, MCPs could also be the measure of determining which countries have welcomed Indian researchers to work collaboratively on malaria research in India. From this analysis, it might be worth considering that India could benefit by increasing collaborations with countries that could either support with infrastructural requirements such as Japan and Singapore or could support to have a deeper understanding on malaria in other tropical countries such as Africa and Southeast Asia. For instance, Cambodia is the place where Artemisinin resistance emerged for the first time in 2008[19] and with increased concern on this India could consider collaborating with Cambodia to understand what incites the resistance to such antimalarials; is it human immunity which is restricted to that particular area? or is it the parasites beauty to evolve quickly.

As could be interpreted from [Figure 3], the information on journal where papers on malaria research in India are mostly published would give researchers and the policy makers idea about candidate journals for their prospective publications. Such analysis also provides platform to gather information and have in-depth understanding. Moreover, it gives a track to policy makers to make decisions based on journals where papers on malaria research were more rampantly appearing in the form of publications. Further, the libraries of the universities and the research institutes could keep track of journals to identify the ones that need to be subscribed. This could help researchers/scientists have full access to the published versions if not published in open access Journals. It also guides authorities to encourage scientists to work in the area based on publication trends.

This study has touched upon the evolution of malaria research in India based on keywords co-citation network analysis from the publications. Admittedly, information on topics published contribute to knowledge of the scientific community for understanding the need of the research area. This also provides us with the gap of knowledge and to know how the trend of research has shifted its focus from one area to another. However, it could be worth mentioning that enough keywords were not detected on diagnostics, vector control and its evaluation in the field, chloroquine, bednets, mosquito behaviour, human genetics, immune genes, sickle cell and malaria relationship, vaccines, drugs, insecticides, ecology, evolution, which means we need to draw attention to such areas of research also. Even though such studies might be part of limited publications but they were not enough to appear with other keywords in the analysis here, which entails that those studies are meagre. It is imperative to mention that right polices have played a major role in directing research in the country and that policy makers and researchers and practitioners should be interdependent while working on malaria. Also, such studies should be continuously carried out by research evaluation committee, organizations, institutes, universities and the ruling bodies and funding agencies which will allow the ministries to allocate funds for research and understand the gap and the need thereby stimulating the research in India in the right direction.

Nevertheless, this study also has few limitations such as: (i) We have only used publications from WoS database. Although, considered to be robust, but there could be articles that are not included in WoS; and (ii) In the keyword network analysis, we have only analyzed abstract, key words, paper titles, but not the full paper. This means that there is a need for authors to be careful while assigning keywords to their papers as this informs about the area of their research to authorities and policy makers who carry out such analyses. Also, further research could be conducted in this area of information science to extract details based on computing methods from complete article.


  Conclusion Top


Malaria research has a diverse base in terms of the objectives, approach, antecedents which range from studies on parasites, vectors, host, environment, socioeconomic factor, etc. and for a field this diverse there is a requirement to understand the trends, gaps and ways of integrating pathways such as the goal of elimination by 2030 can be achieved. Science mapping techniques are apt in providing a holistic overview pertaining to a particular research field. This is helpful to both academics and policy makers to assess the state of the art and future directions in a particular research field. With the proliferation of academic articles in various research themes, there will be a requirement of computer-aided algorithms to aid researchers in developing a holistic knowledge regarding a field as diverse as Malaria. While, the human aspect is not being overlooked but limited cognitive capacity of human brain calls out for machine learning methods, which can aid research work. We believe advanced studies, which amalgamate, quantitative and qualitative analysis on academic literature could aid policy makers and researchers in determining the course of future direction in this field.[34]

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interest.



 
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    Figures

  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4]
 
 
    Tables

  [Table 1], [Table 2]



 

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