Background: Tropical medicine appeared as a distinct sub-discipline in the late nineteenth century, during a period of rapid European colonial expansion in Africa and Asia. After a dramatic drop after World War II, research on tropical diseases have received more attention and research funding in the twenty-first century.
Methods: We used Apache Taverna to integrate Europe PMC and MapAffil web services, containing the spatiotemporal analysis workflow from a list of PubMed queries to a list of publication years and author affiliations geoparsed to latitudes and longitudes. The results could then be visualized in the Quantum Geographic Information System (QGIS).
Results: Our workflows automatically matched 253,277 affiliations to geographical coordinates for the first authors of 379,728 papers on tropical diseases in a single execution. The bibliometric analyses show how research output in tropical diseases follow major historical shifts in the twentieth century and renewed interest in and funding for tropical disease research in the twenty-first century. They show the effects of disease outbreaks, WHO eradication programs, vaccine developments, wars, refugee migrations, and peace treaties.
Conclusions: Literature search and geoparsing web services can be combined in scientific workflows performing a complete spatiotemporal bibliometric analyses of research in tropical medicine. The workflows and datasets are freely available and can be used to reproduce or refine the analyses and test specific hypotheses or look into particular diseases or geographic regions. This work exceeds all previously published bibliometric analyses on tropical diseases in both scale and spatiotemporal range.