research investment to United Kingdom institutions and published
outputs for tuberculosis, HIV and malaria: a systematic analysis across
“Unfinished Agenda” of infectious diseases is of great importance to
policymakers and research funding agencies that require ongoing research
evidence on their effective management. Journal publications help
effectively share and disseminate research results to inform policy and
practice. We assess research investments to United Kingdom institutions
in HIV, tuberculosis and malaria, and analyse these by numbers of
publications and citations and by disease and type of science.
on infection-related research investments awarded to United Kingdom
institutions across 1997–2010 were sourced from funding agencies and
individually categorised by disease and type of science. Publications
were sourced from the Scopus database via keyword searches and filtered
to include only publications relating to human disease and containing a
United Kingdom-based first and/or last author. Data were matched by
disease and type of science categories. Investment (United Kingdom
pounds) and publications were compared to generate an ‘investment per
publication’ metric; similarly, an ‘investment per citation’ metric was
also developed as a measure of the usefulness of research.
research investment for all three diseases was £1.4 billion, and was
greatest for HIV (£651.4 million), followed by malaria (£518.7 million)
and tuberculosis (£239.1 million). There were 17,271 included
publications, with 9,322 for HIV, 4,451 for malaria, and 3,498 for
tuberculosis. HIV publications received the most citations (254,949),
followed by malaria (148,559) and tuberculosis (100,244). According to
UK pound per publication, tuberculosis (£50,691) appeared the most
productive for investment, compared to HIV (£61,971) and malaria
(£94,483). By type of science, public health research was most
productive for HIV (£27,296) and tuberculosis (£22,273), while phase
I–III trials were most productive for malaria (£60,491). According to UK
pound per citation, tuberculosis (£1,797) was the most productive area
for investment, compared to HIV (£2,265) and malaria (£2,834). Public
health research was the most productive type of science for HIV (£2,265)
and tuberculosis (£1,797), whereas phase I–III trials were most
productive for malaria (£1,713).
comparing total publications and citations with research investment to
United Kingdom institutions, tuberculosis research appears to perform
best in terms of efficiency. There were more public health-related
publications and citations for HIV and tuberculosis than other types of
science. These findings demonstrate the diversity of research funding
and outputs, and provide new evidence to inform research investment
strategies for policymakers, funders, academic institutions, and
Electronic supplementary material
online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12961-015-0052-5) contains
supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Bibliometrics, Funding, Health policy, HIV, Infectious disease,
Malaria, Publications, Research impact, Research investments,
“Unfinished Agenda” of infectious diseases is of great importance to
policymakers and funders of global health. The Global Burden of Disease
study reaffirms the continuing high burden of communicable disease [1, 2].
The outbreak of Ebola in West Africa has illustrated the challenges
faced by WHO and individual countries in effectively managing
transmission across national borders and closing the gaps in global
surveillance systems .
publications in academic journals – a typical output for funded
research – can help to effectively disseminate the latest knowledge to
policymakers, clinicians and other health professionals to inform policy
and practice. Researchers at United Kingdom institutions have been
prolific at publishing manuscripts in peer-reviewed journals . Infectious disease is also a common topic of scientific papers [5, 6], and the vast majority of references within these papers are citing other journal articles .
Previous research analysing the returns from public research investment
have concentrated on estimating the societal benefits received from
research in the case of cancer ; cardiovascular and stroke research ; arthritis ; as well as from medical research in general .
However, this study is one of the first that directly links the
publication return from public research investment. Although there have
been criticisms of the emphasis applied to publishing in journals, and
particularly in those with high impact factors ,
journals remain an important medium to sharing new knowledge and
research findings. In addition, links between GDP and research
productivity [13, 14]
illustrate a policy need to understand a nation’s return on investment
as an indicator of economic competitiveness and potential for growth.
has systematically analysed investments between 1997 and 2013 in
infectious disease research, highlighting funding levels by disease area
, awarding body , receiving institution , and the sex of the principal investigator .
A 2015 publication showed that publication numbers for pneumonia
broadly increased over time, with no clear relationship to changes in
Herein, we consider three major infectious diseases, HIV, tuberculosis
and malaria, and analyse individual trends in research investment and
published outputs. We use a novel metric to assess the numbers of
publications relative to research investments. We explore the impact of
investment and published outputs by analysing citations for each disease
area and by type of science.
for infectious disease research were sourced from the leading funders
of infectious disease research in the public and philanthropic sectors.
The compilation of the research investments data has been described in
detail elsewhere [16, 20], but briefly reiterated here – we systematically examined investment data from 585 awarding bodies .
Data was obtained by searches on the funder website, requesting data
directly from the funder, or searches on databases such as the National
Research Register (now-archived and owned by the Department of Health)
and ClinicalTrials.gov. Each downloaded study was examined for relevance
to human infection. We excluded symposium grants, studies purely
related to veterinary or plant infectious disease, and infrastructure
grants unless there was clear emphasis on use for human infectious
under one of four types of science along the research pipeline –
pre-clinical, phase I–III trials, product development, and public health
research. In the updated analysis including the years 2011–2013, a
fifth category, cross-disciplinary, was included in response to a
perceived increase in awards that encouraged research across more than
one type of science. Owing to resource constraints, this category has
not yet been retrospectively applied to the 1997–2010 dataset. Awards
were also categorised under a range of diseases and cross-cutting areas,
including specific infections such as HIV, tuberculosis and malaria.
Investment data across all years were adjusted for 2013 inflation, and
awards in international currencies were converted to UK pounds using the
average exchange rate in the year of the award.
data from 1997–2013 was extracted from the Scopus database. Searches
for article types were restricted to original article, editorial or
review. Keywords searches were ‘AIDS’ OR ‘HIV’; ‘malaria’ OR
‘plasmodium’; and ‘tuberculosis’ OR ‘Mycobacterium’. By country, results
were restricted to ‘UK’. All available information was downloaded into
Excel spreadsheets, and conditional formatting equations applied in
Excel to separate the list of authors into individual cells and thus be
able to filter for publications with a United Kingdom-based first and/or
last author. This criterion was used as a surrogate marker of
significant United Kingdom involvement and thus presumed to be more
comparable as a measure of outputs from United Kingdom research
investments. Amongst the data available for analysis were publication
title, abstract, article type, year of publication, journal title, and
number of citations for each paper. Each publication was individually
read by one of the authors and assessed for relevance to disease in
humans for HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, and grouped in one of the
five types of science along the research and development pipeline used
in the research investments categories (pre-clinical, phase I–III
trials, product development, public health, cross-disciplinary).
reduce inter-observer error, random samples of data were checked by a
second author, with errors corrected and disagreements settled by
consensus; a Cohen’s kappa score was calculated to measurement levels of
agreement using GraphPad software .
order to compare investments, publications and citations, a ‘UK pound
per publication’ and ‘UK pound per citation’ metric was developed,
across the three diseases and by type of science. The sum of investments
across 1997–2010 was divided by the number of publications or citations
from 1997–2013. Cross-disciplinary science was excluded from these
analyses. Microsoft Excel 2013 and Stata V13 were used to assemble and
analyse the datasets.
number of publications extracted from Scopus was 19,461 for HIV, 9,355
for tuberculosis and 15,173 for malaria. Author categorisation produced
9,322 publications for HIV (47.9% of the initial number), 3,498 for
tuberculosis (37.4%), and 15,173 for malaria (29.3%; Table 1).
Major reasons for exclusion included keywords cross-cutting across
different areas (e.g. ‘AIDS’ is also found in studies discussing
‘hearing aids’) and publications containing a United Kingdom author but
not in first or last position. The agreement between authors (Cohen’s
kappa) for categorisation was assessed as 0.88, rated as ‘very good’.
Summary of total research investment, publication and citation numbers for tuberculosis, HIV and malaria
for all three diseases was £1.4 billion and was greatest for HIV
(£651.4 million), followed by malaria (£518.7 million) and tuberculosis
(£239.1 million). Research investment per annum for each disease showed
considerable variation (Figure 1). By type of science for each disease (Additional file 1),
preclinical science received proportionately the greatest funding
followed by public health and phase I–III, whereas product development
awards received the least funding. A small amount of funding focused on
cross-disciplinary studies across 2011–2013. Proportionate quantities
for public health research increased for all infections in the later
years of this dataset, typically at the expense of preclinical research.
Similar findings were observed for publication and citation numbers
(Additional file 1).
Annual research investment for HIV, tuberculosis and malaria.
was public health for HIV (62.9%) and tuberculosis (51.0%). Unlike
research investments, publication numbers for all infections typically
showed a steady increase year on year (Figure 2) from 793 in 1997 to 1,458 in 2013.
Annual publication numbers for HIV, tuberculosis and malaria.
Annual citations arising from publications relating to HIV, tuberculosis and malaria.
tuberculosis (£50,691) appears the most productive area for investment,
compared to HIV and (£61,971) malaria (£94,483). By type of science
(Additional file 1),
public health was most productive for HIV (£27,296) and tuberculosis
(£22,273), with phase I–III trials being the least productive (£326,440
and £187,185, respectively). For malaria, phase I–III trials were the
most productive (£60,491) and all other types of science highlighted
between £93 and £96,000 of investment per publication.
Relative investment in type of science for HIV, tuberculosis and
malaria research, as described by a ‘UK pound per publication’ metric
tuberculosis (£1,797) appears the most productive area for investment,
compared to HIV (£2,265) and malaria (£2,834). By type of science
(Additional file 1),
public health was the most productive for HIV (£2,265) and tuberculosis
(£1,797), with phase I–III trials being the least productive (£7,479
and £4,035, respectively). For malaria, phase I–III trials were most
productive (£1,713) and all other types of science highlighted between
£2,600 and £3,200 of investment per publication.
Relative investment in type of science for HIV, tuberculosis and
malaria research, as described by a ‘UK pound per citation’ metric
1997–2013, significant public and philanthropic investments of over
£1.4 billion have been awarded to United Kingdom institutions for HIV-,
tuberculosis- and malaria-related research, with the vast majority of
investment (£1.1 billion; 80.2% of total) directed to preclinical
science or public health research. There were 17,271 published outputs
on these disease areas, which were cited on 503,752 occasions. The most
published and cited disease was HIV, and publications and citations were
most numerous in preclinical science for HIV and tuberculosis, but for
malaria this was phase I–III trials. The ‘investment per publication’
and ‘investment per citation’ metrics show tuberculosis to be the most
productive area of research investment. By type of science, the metrics
suggest public health research to be the most productive area for HIV
and tuberculosis and phase I–III trials for malaria. The publication
trends show that publication numbers steadily increase over time,
distinct from the annual volatility of research funding.
and as well as the Global Fund, which has an annual budget of around
US$4 billion and collaborates with local, national and international
entities from the public, private and philanthropic sector with the aim
of addressing and greatly reducing the impact of these diseases in the
countries of highest burden .
Given the burden and international focus, the significant level of
research investment is important and the extent of the publications and
resultant citations unsurprising. However, funders and policymakers need
to know how well their investments are performing and quantifications
of the numbers and usefulness of the published outputs are an important
measure of the impact and quality of research. The metrics developed
herein highlight the more efficient performance of tuberculosis
investments and (more generally) public health research, and will be of
interest to the funding agencies and academic and clinical institutions
which seek to engage in the highest-quality and best-performing
research. It is also important that the large volume of knowledge
generated by the research and disseminated by the publications is made
clearly available to those involved in decision making regarding future
funding priorities and more immediate considerations for policy and
three important disease areas, but it would be useful for future work to
consider other infectious diseases and to systematically analyse
investments and publications in non-communicable disease research. The
investment dataset does not consider private sector investments, which
may particularly impact upon the metrics used here for phase I–III
trials and for product development research in these infections.
journal requirements and publication databases evolve, it will become
increasingly possible to link individual investment and published
outputs via grant reference numbers and name of the agency sponsoring
the research. This will provide the ability to generate more precise
metrics of the relationship between investment and publications and
citations. There is also the possibility for future work to consider
published outputs by individual journal and journal metrics. Other
research has suggested that the infectious disease content of the Lancet and New England Journal of Medicine journals consists of up to 35% for HIV and tuberculosis combined and 65% for all other infections ;
therefore, the relative importance of each disease area for funders and
publishers would be important to assess. Alongside the ResIn study , other research has highlighted the importance of the United Kingdom infectious disease research portfolio , and also the publication record of United Kingdom authors . Funders such as the Wellcome Trust also use bibliometric analyses to assess their portfolio of studies .
Whilst detailed and informative, the disadvantage of these reports is
that they focus solely on a single funder and each funder uses different
criteria to analyse their work; one strength of this paper, and the
ResIn study as a whole, is the unified approach across funders and
disease areas, allowing simultaneous comparison of multiple awarding
used data from one comprehensive publications database (Scopus) and
inclusion of data from other databases may have modified the results as
the content of each database is slightly different [ 27].
Categorisation of both investments and publications is necessarily a
pragmatic process and open to subjectivity, though the rigour of the
process is strengthened by the cross-checks of random samples of data by
a second author. We made pragmatic decisions when applying our
methodology – (1) that investments across 1997–2010 would publish most
of their papers during 1997–2013; (2) that only including first or last
authors from a United Kingdom institution would be a suitable measure of
significant United Kingdom involvement and therefore likely to have
received research funding. It is difficult to estimate how many papers
have been excluded, or included, in error via these methods. Due to
small numbers, we do not anticipate a significant impact of any
retrospective reclassification of the cross-disciplinary category by
type of science in the 1997–2010 data. Individual publications were
assumed to be of equal impact and not controlled for by journal impact
factor or any other publication or journal metric or weighting.
analyses reported herein suggest that tuberculosis is the
best-performing disease area in terms of public and philanthropic
research investment and publication and citation productivity, and
public health is generally the type of science that is most prolific.
These investments and publications generate great amounts of knowledge,
and the analyses we report here can inform the thinking and
priority-setting of policymakers such as WHO, national and international
funding agencies, and the academic and clinical institutions which
carry out research. The ResIn study 
has secured funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to carry
out systematic analyses on investments and publications in infectious
diseases in the G20 countries and so extended datasets will become
available for open collaboration across 2016 and 2017.
authors would like to acknowledge the Infectious Disease Research
Network for their role in original design of the Research Investments in
Global Health study, and also funders who have contributed data to
these analyses. No funding is attributed to this submission.
and JRF designed and created the study. MGH, FBW, JM, NK, BB, and CJC
assembled and categorised the dataset. JRF, RA and GD informed study
design, reviewed data, and contributed to the analyses, drafting and
revisions. All authors reviewed the results and approved the draft and
final versions of the manuscript.
Contributor InformationMichael G. Head, Email: email@example.com.
Joseph R. Fitchett, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gemma Derrick, Email: email@example.com.
Fatima B. Wurie, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jonathan Meldrum, Email: email@example.com.
Nina Kumari, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Benjamin Beattie, Email: email@example.com.
Christopher J. Counts, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rifat Atun, Email: email@example.com.
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Comparing research investment to United Kingdom institutions and published outputs for tuberculosis, HIV and malaria: a systematic analysis across 1997–2013