This month, KIE Head of Information Services Mark Hakkarinen published a paper in the Journal of Medical Ethics detailing the findings of a a quantitative analysis of the top-cited articles in bioethical journals over the past 40 years. Designed to investigate trends in the constantly evolving field of bioethics, the study examined the 20 most-cited bioethics articles published each year from 1975 to 2014. Article samples were selected from a list of the most relevant 100 journals in the field of bioethics.
In total, 800 top-cited articles between 1975 and 2014 in the domain of bioethics were retrieved and analyzed. The study looked at several metrics: more than half of observed articles were composed by single authors, though multi-authorship became more prevalent with time; the majority (84.5%) of these highly cited articles originated from the USA (65.3%), UK or Canada, though the proportion of other countries has increased in recent years; almost half (44.6%) of the highly-cited articles belonged to the subfield of clinical ethics, but other subfields such as research ethics, public health ethics, and neuroethics became more prominent; overall, the distribution of keywords and subfields became more diverse over time and the number of journals publishing top-cited articles doubled; and the empirical ethics approach increased over time in the survey’s sample of top-cited articles.
According to the authors, overall the study “supported the idea that the forefront of bioethics is getting more diversified, collaborative and international. The presumed ‘mainstream’ is becoming less dominant over time, as more highly cited articles come from new subfields, discuss new topics, use more … keywords, [and] more authors participate and more countries other than the USA contribute to bioethics journals.”
Hakkarinen’s work in this area carries on the decades-long legacy of the Institute’s Bioethics Research Library, which he leads. Since its founding in the 1970s, the Library has been an integral partner and co-leader in the project of defining, indexing, and making accessible the ever-growing field of bioethics.