Background: During the last two decades, there has been a significant change in the origin and impact of the world's biomedical scientific production, particularly in countries in which the investment in research accounts for an important portion of the gross national product (GNP). However, in less developed countries, budget restrictions and the lack of policies toward research may determine a limited growth of the scientific production.
Methods: We examined the number and impact of peer-reviewed publications from Latin America included in the Institute of Scientific Information (ISI) and MEDLINE databases. In addition, we analyzed the number of abstracts submitted to the congresses of the International Society of Nephrology (ISN), American Society of Nephrology (ASN), and Latin American Society of Nephrology and Hypertension (SLANH).
Results: The number of peer-reviewed publications in nephrology from authors in Latin America during the last 20 years represented less than 1% of the world's total. Only 13 out of the 22 Latin American countries accounted for these publications. The citation impact (3.52) was below the world average (7.82). However, this index showed a tendency towards growth in the five most productive countries. Likewise, the number of abstracts submitted to international meetings of nephrology by authors in Latin American countries has shown a steady growth in the recent years, but remains proportionately low compared with the rest of the world.
Conclusions: This study indicates that although efforts toward improving the quantity and quality of research in Latin America have been made, the final results are less than other regions in the world. Possible factors responsible for the low performance include a failure in academic motivation and lack of pressure for publication, as well as limited research funding. Therefore, important efforts from local and international nephrological communities are needed to boost research in Latin America.