Please see Additional file 1 for translations of the abstract into the six official languages of the United Nations.
The global burden of disease today is less due to infectious diseases than non-communicable diseases, with chronic disorders such as heart disease, stroke and cancer currently being the leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide. However, infections remain a major global health concern, particularly in the developing world, where the human immunodeficiency virus and the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS), viral hepatitis, tuberculosis and malaria, still kill millions of people around the globe every year [3, 4]. Parasitic diseases, e.g., malaria and schistosomiasis, do not always remain limited to their age-old geographic distributions complicating control efforts and challenging the progress towards their elimination [5–8]. Additionally, emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases like the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), influenza, Ebola virus disease (EVD), dengue, Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and Zika virus disease threaten human health and global security [9–18].
Infectious diseases are inextricably linked to poverty in a vicious cycle. These diseases, characterized by high morbidity and mortality that mainly occur in resource-limited areas, belong by definition to the group of diseases that are more prevalent among poor and vulnerable populations. They rank within the top ten ailments with respect to years lost due to ill-health, disability or early death, expressed as disability-adjusted life years (DALYs). In a global perspective, this leads to huge economic losses, both for the individual and society, and a global platform to communicate and share the research on the infectious diseases of poverty was felt to be needed to facilitate the translation of knowledge into effective approaches and tools for the elimination of these diseases.
On October 25, 2012, Infectious Diseases of Poverty (IDP) was launched as a new, open-access (OA) journal on infectious diseases by BioMed Central, in partnership with the National Institute of Parasitic Diseases (NIPD), Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Its preferential aims are to identify and assess research and information gaps that hinder progress towards new interventions for public health problems, in particular those connected with poverty in the developing world. Based on the “One health, One world” mission mentioned in the Global Report on Research for the Infectious Diseases of Poverty, the journal publishes work on topics and approaches that address essential public health questions related to this issue. Along with the actions proposed by this report, IDP, aims to achieve the goal of improving research capacity and create a better environment for the research on the infectious diseases of poverty [19, 22].
The purpose of this article is to review the publication activities of IDP in its first five years by comparing the record with other journals with a similar focus in order to understand the current trends of research in publications on infectious diseases.
We performed an in-depth bibliometric analysis of all publications during the first five volumes covering the period from October 25, 2012 to October 25, 2016 through a joint search using the publication name “Infectious Diseases of Poverty” in PubMed, Web of Science (WOS) (formerly ISI Web of Knowledge) and the journal’s website. We also compared with two other journals in this area, International Journal of Infectious Diseases and BMC Infectious Diseases.
The publication data and metrics of IDP, International Journal of Infectious Diseases and BMC Infectious Diseases were collected using these journals’ homepages, submission systems and the WOS Citation Database as of 20th February, 2017. We used ordinary descriptive statistics to analyse the performance of IDP during its first five years supported by BioMed Central’s databases.
IDP is currently managed by an Editor-in-Chief and two managing editors, one based in China and the other in France. They perform the bulk of the day-to-day activities, including communication with authors, choosing and contacting referees for peer review, and making the final decisions with regard to publication or rejection of manuscripts. This core team is supported by five Deputy Editors and 13 Associate Editors from Asia, Africa, Europe, North America, South America and Oceania.
To assure quality and impact from the start, IDP appointed an international editorial board of well-known scientists with expertise within the fields of infectious diseases, parasitic diseases, social sciences and economy. The current editorial board consists of 31 members, based in UK (n = 4), USA (n = 3), China (n = 3), Australia (n = 3), Switzerland (n = 3), Brazil (n = 2), Cameroon (n = 2), India (n = 2), Nigeria (n = 1), Japan (n = 1), Ghana (n = 1), Belgium (n = 1), Thailand (n = 1), Greece (n = 1), Democratic Republic of Congo (n = 1), South Africa (n = 1), Kenya (n = 1) and Senegal (n = 1).
From the inaugural issue of October, 2012 up to and including October, 2016, a total of 256 manuscripts were published in IDP. The annual publication record is presented in Fig. 1. Out of all publications, research articles (69.5%) and scoping reviews (21.5%) dominated with the remaining 7 publication being editorials, opinion articles and letters to the editor (Fig. 2). A total of 1 081 contributing authors, divided between 323 affiliations across 68 countries, territories and, regions produced these 256 publications during the five-year period (Tables 1, 2 and 3). The publications included 53 countries, territories and regions from the developing world (78%).
The journal is indexed in major international biomedical databases, including WOS, Science Citation Index Expanded, MEDLINE, DOAJ, PubMed, Scopus and Embase. In 2015, it was assigned the first impact factor (4.11), which is now 2.13 (Fig. 3).
The citation record
Up to 20th February 2017, the 256 publications in the first five IDP volumes were cited 1 187 times in total, i.e. a mean citation of 4.64 times per paper. Table 4 presents the 10 most highly cited publications, which includes five reviews, two editorials, one opinion article, one research article and one letter to the editor. Interestingly, the most highly cited publication in IDP is an editorial published in 2013, which may be explained by the fact that it dealt with surveillance and response defining this approach as a research priority during the stage moving towards elimination of tropical diseases, which received much global attention [26–30]. The importance and significance of the surveillance and response approach are also highlighted by two other highly cited publications in IDP [26, 31]. We refer here to two reviews, one discussing gap analysis of the Chinese three major tropical diseases (schistosomiasis, malaria and echinococcosis), and the other assessing the morbidity due to schistosomiasis japonica in China [32, 33]. In addition, an editorial opinion focusing on the Chinese schistosomiasis control and health systems and a research article reporting on Babesia microti and Plasmodium co-infections along the China-Myanmar border were also commonly cited [34, 35]. Among three other publications, which have been cited 26 times and more, are two reviews describing global epidemiology: the burden of infectious diseases of poverty and that of clonorchiasis, together with an editorial introducing the mission, aims and scope of IDP.
Downloads and reads
The number of articles of the 256 publications accessed through Internet reached a total of 1 174 098 accesses up to 20th February, 2017, with a mean of 4 586.32 times per publication. Table 5 summarizes the five most highly accessed publications, which have been accessed more than 12 000 times. They include three research articles, one focusing on the interplay between infectious disease emergence and global climate change, one dealing with the risk factors of malaria among pregnant women in Nigeria and one discussing the reaction of Chinese social media to the outbreaks caused by the MERS coronavirus and avian influenza A (H7N9). Two reviews, one on tuberculosis and the other on malaria and other vector-borne protozoan diseases were also often downloaded. Interestingly, the most highly accessed publication is a research article exploring the potential correlation between the emergence of infectious diseases and global climate change, perhaps explained by the currently worldwide focus on a large number of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases in this context [42, 43].
Publication quality and origins
During the 5-year period investigated, countries IDP received manuscripts from 90 countries, territories and regions across six continents (Fig. 4) that included 61 from the developing world (68%). The annual acceptance rate of all submitted manuscripts received was maintained at less than 40% throughout the period analysed (Fig. 5).
Content analysis showed that neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), followed by the “Big Three” (HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis) and other infectious diseases, were in the focus of the 256 publications, which consisted of 88% of total publications (Fig. 6). IDP is dedicated to communicate global health concerns on finding ways for poverty alleviation and to publish papers dealing with the following topics: (1) approaches addressing essential public health questions related to infectious diseases of poverty; (2) multi-disciplinary concerns of infectious disease of poverty, such as the biology of pathogens, vectors, diagnosis, surveillance and response, treatment and case management, epidemiology including ecohealth issues and modelling, zoonoses and animal reservoirs, control strategies and implementation of new technologies; and (3) trans-disciplinary or multi-sectoral effects involving health systems, environmental management and innovative technology.
Role of the thematic series
A total of 10 thematic series were published in the first five volumes of IDP with 1 – 3 issues appearing each year (Table 6). The thematic series were issued to allow the journal to remain in the frontline in the field of infectious diseases of poverty underpinning international readership. The series covered a variety of diseases, including EVD, malaria, schistosomiasis, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases, and they were particularly planned to address important issues and approaches, e.g., surveillance and response, interplay between environmental change and emerging infectious diseases (EIDs), insecticide resistance, etc. A total of 118 research articles, accounting for 46% of the contents published, were together cited 975 times. This means an average citation rate of 8.3 times per publication, which is significantly higher than the mean citation (4.64) of the all the 256 papers published since the journal was launched.
Comparison with other journals publishing in similar fields
Unlike International Journal of Infectious Diseases and BMC Infectious Diseases, two international, peer-reviewed journals in the field of infectious diseases that have attracted global contributions, IDP has focused on developing countries, in particular in Africa and Asia. Figure 7 shows the 10 countries that contributed the most to IDP, International Journal of Infectious Diseases and BMC Infectious Diseases. The 10 countries that contributed more than others to BMC Infectious Diseases included eight industrialized countries in North America, Europe and Oceania and two developing countries: Peoples’ Republic of China and Brazil. In the case of International Journal of Infectious Diseases, four industrialized countries from North America and Europe and four developing countries from Asia and Africa were included, while the 10 IDP top-contributing countries included six industrialized countries in North America, Europe, and Oceania and four developing countries in Asia and Africa. The difference in the distribution of contributing countries may be explained by the slightly different scopes and disease spectra in the three journals.
The World’s currently biggest donor for scientific research, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) demands that the outcomes of what it supports must be freely available to all. This is set to change scientific research publications at its core, since this requirement bars publication in ‘premier-league’ journals such as Nature and Science. Increasingly, scientific journals are accepting the OA mandate and IDP wisely decided to follow suit when its first volume appeared more than five years ago. As an international, peer-reviewed OA journal, IDP has its own specific characters as follows:The journal provides the abstracts in the six official languages of the United Nations (UN), which enables clear and convenient communication of public health concerns related to the infectious diseases of poverty.Fast-track publication is provided for articles of exceptional public health importance and urgency with online publication completed within a month of submission.The journal focuses on publication of original and empirical trans-disciplinary research for the control of infectious diseases which predominantly affect poor populations.
Free preprint repository, bioRxiv (http://biorxiv.org/), is another revolution quietly taking place and gradually found more and more useful for scientists as it establishes priority and exposure, while, on the other hand, there is no peer-review. This important development must be taken under consideration in the publication world and scientific journals, including, IDP, need to find a way to participate in this expansion of how new findings are brought into the public sphere.
In 2014, a thematic series issue entitled “EcoHealth and EIDs - dynamics between environmental change, development and EIDs in Asia”, which was supported by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) of Canada and published with the aim to showcase and encourage trans-disciplinary EcoHealth research in Asia and beyond. The 17 publications in this thematic series were cited 120 times, with a mean of 7.1 times per publication. It attracted 38 352 downloads and reads in total, with a mean of 2 256 per publication.
Since the launch and continuing, IDP aims to identify and assess research and information gaps that hinder progress towards new interventions for the particular public health problem of poverty and infections in the developing world. In its first five volumes, the journal published studies from 53 developing economies (34%) and attracted contributions from 61 developing economies (39%); however, there are still more than 60% of the global developing economies that have not yet contributed a paper to the journal. Further work to attract manuscripts from the developing world is urgently needed. In addition, 31% (284/917) of all manuscripts in the first five years were submitted by African scientists; however, even if only slightly more than 33% (95/284) of these were finally published, this indicates a strong African interest in publishing with IDP as well as a trend of improving quality of research conducted in Africa.
The journal was assigned a first impact factor of 4.11 in 2015; however, this metric decreased to 2.13 in 2016, which can be explained by the large rise in the number of annual publications achieved already the following year. The huge increase in manuscripts submitted to IDP translates into a remarkable rise in the publications in the journal, resulting in a challenge to increase of the journal impact factor. Further analysis showed that 5 of the 256 publications in the first five volumes had more than 30 citations, while 66 publications had none, including 50 in the single year of 2016. Publication of high-quality studies and ‘hot’ research topics are believed not only to build an international following, but also improve the journal’s impact factor.
The journal may seem less attractive for contributions pertaining to high-impact topics in infectious disease research compared to International Journal of Infectious Diseases and BMC Infectious Diseases, which may be explained by the fact that it is a relatively new journal, which has not yet garnered an adequate international following. Publication of ‘hot’ research topics and results changing the direction of research should be strived for and this can be achieved through invited manuscripts and thematic series. In the future, work attracting high-quality papers from Europe and USA in addition to papers from the developing world, should be strengthened.
During the past five years, IDP has been strengthening its academic impact; however, its international impact remains to be enhanced relative to other leading journals in infectious diseases. The following priority has been recommended by its editorial board:Invitation of contributions from global health policy makers and high-impact scientists;Publication of thematic series pertaining to global ‘hot’ topics in public health, emerging or re-emerging diseases and the outcome of international major projects on infectious diseases;Publication of thematic series pertaining to health policy in collaboration with the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR) of the World Health Organization (WHO), which may facilitate the development of a global health policy and increase its impact.
In addition, it might be useful to mark the official WHO health days, as mandated by the World Health Assembly, e.g., World Health Day on 7 April; World TB Day on 24 March; World Malaria Day on 25 April; World Hepatitis Day on 28 July; and World AIDS Day on 1 December.
Finally, the question of a paper’s true value must be mentioned as it is at the heart of the collaboration between author(s) and journal. That question extends naturally to the question of what the true value of a scientific journal is. This question has been approached in various ways, not the least by awarding impact factors. This first attempt is still the most utilized metric for assessing a journal’s merit, but new developments are telling us that a faster and wider range of research-related metrics are needed. The number of clicks, downloads and reads are already providing valuable insights into how published content is being used and shared by fellow scientists. A multitude of commercial companies are already active in this field, for example, Altmetric (https://www.altmetric.com/), Plum Analytics (http://plumanalytics.com/) and ResearchGate (https://www.researchgate.net/). Meta (http://www.meta.com) has gone one step further by using algorithms recognizing the unique features characterizing widely cited papers, and the company claims that this can predict a paper’s future impact before its publication. More than 26 million papers and 14 million researchers have already been profiled by the company (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meta) to support this claim.
IDP has achieved its preliminary goal to become a platform for the identification of research and information gaps that hinder progress towards new interventions for public health problem connected to poverty in the developing world. However, there is still a long way to go to further advance research and evidence-building based on improved public health interventions in poor settings. It is believed that IDP can significantly facilitate progress towards the elimination of infectious diseases related to poverty. In this process, IDP will not only be judged by the quality of the articles published, but also regarding how it fits into the new world of merit assessment.