Publication practices of sub-Saharan African Cochrane authors: a bibliometric study

BMJ Open. 2021 Sep 28;11(9):e051839. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2021-051839.

Abstract

Introduction: Cochrane Africa (https://africa.cochrane.org/) aims to increase Cochrane reviews addressing high priority questions in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Researchers residing in SSA, despite often drawing on Cochrane methods, training or resources, conduct and publish systematic reviews outside of Cochrane. Our objective was to investigate the extent to which Cochrane authors from SSA publish Cochrane and non-Cochrane reviews.

Methods: We conducted a bibliometric study of systematic reviews and overviews of systematic reviews from SSA, first by identifying SSA Cochrane authors, then retrieving their first and last author systematic reviews and overviews from PubMed (2008 to April 2019) and using descriptive analyses to investigate the country of origin, types of reviews and trends in publishing Cochrane and non-Cochrane systematic reviews over time. To be eligible, a review had to have predetermined objectives, eligibility criteria, at least two databases searched, data extraction, quality assessment and a first or last author with a SSA affiliation.

Results: We identified 657 Cochrane authors and 757 eligible systematic reviews. Most authors were from South Africa (n=332; 51%), followed by Nigeria (n=126; 19%). Three-quarters of the reviews (71%) were systematic reviews of interventions. The intervention reviews were more likely to be Cochrane reviews (60.3% vs 39.7%). Conversely, the overviews (23.8% vs 76.2%), qualitative reviews (14.8% vs 85.2%), diagnostic test accuracy reviews (16.1% vs 83.9%) and the 'other' reviews (11.1% vs 88.9%) were more likely to be non-Cochrane reviews. During the study period, the number of non-Cochrane reviews increased more than the number of Cochrane reviews. About a quarter of the reviews covered infectious disease topics.

Conclusion: Cochrane authors from SSA are increasingly publishing a diverse variety of systematic reviews and overviews of systematic reviews, often opting for non-Cochrane journals.

Keywords: health informatics; human resource management; statistics & research methods.

MeSH terms

  • Bibliometrics*
  • Humans
  • Nigeria
  • Research Personnel*
  • South Africa
  • Systematic Reviews as Topic