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Analysis of publication trends in two internationally renowned ophthalmology journals
  1. A ANG
  1. Department of Ophthalmology, Ipswich Hospital, Heath Road, Ipswich IP4 5PD, UK
  2. Department of Ophthalmology
  3. Queen's Medical Centre, University Hospital, Nottingham NG7 2UH, UK
  1. L TONG,
  2. A BHAN
  1. Department of Ophthalmology, Ipswich Hospital, Heath Road, Ipswich IP4 5PD, UK
  2. Department of Ophthalmology
  3. Queen's Medical Centre, University Hospital, Nottingham NG7 2UH, UK
  1. Mr A Ang, Department of Opthalmology, West Norwich Hospital, Bowthorpe Road, Norwich NR2 3TU

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Editor,—International journals represent a forum for exchange of current information with contributions from all over the world. High standards are essential. In this report, we compared the publishing trends of two internationally renowned ophthalmology journals—the British Journal of Ophthalmology (BJO) and the American Journal of Ophthalmology (AJO).


Using the public Medline facility provided by the National Institutes of Health, the numbers of prospective studies and case reports published in the AJO and theBJO from January 1980 to December 1999 were determined. These were done using the following keyword searches: “prospective” and “case report.” The countries of origin of the articles were counted manually for the years 1990 and 1999, and were taken as the addresses of the corresponding author. Keyword searching was not possible owing to the non-uniformity of the way the addresses were registered.

The total number of publications remained fairly constant in theAJO over the two decades (Fig 1A). The percentage of prospective studies increased greatly from 1% to 12% (Fig 1B). Case reports, on the other hand, constituted 34–45% of the published articles (Fig 1C) with no obvious trend.

Figure 1

Histograms showing (A) the total number of articles (B) the percentage of prospective articles, and (C) the percentage of case reports in 2 yearly intervals in both journals.

In comparison, there was a steady increase in the total number of articles (Fig 1A) in the BJO. The trends in the percentages of prospective studies and of case reports were similar to that in the AJO (Fig 1B and C).

The native countries (that is, the countries in which the journals are published) were the major contributors of articles for their respective journals (Fig 2A). The United States made a considerably larger contribution to the BJO than the United Kingdom did to the AJO (Fig 2B). Comparing 1990 with 1999, the contribution from foreign countries had risen significantly from 40% to 60% in the BJOand from 14% to 36% in the AJO. The top few foreign countries contributing to the respective journals are shown in Figures 2C and D.

Figure 2

Histograms showing the contributions from native and foreign countries in the years 1990 and 1999 in the two journals.


In an ideal world, all studies will be randomised and controlled. In reality, however, this is often not the case for various reasons. In our present study, we arbitrarily and simplistically chose the prospective design as an indicator of a good quality publication. In both the BJO and theAJO, there had been an increasing percentage of prospective studies published (from 3% to 6% and from 1% to 12% respectively) over the past two decades. This is an encouraging sign but the percentages remain small, especially in theBJO, when compared with other types of publications. This is not necessarily the fault of the journals but merely a reflection of the research work done during that period

Contributions from abroad appeared to be on the increase in both journals when comparing 1990 with 1999 with theBJO being the more cosmopolitan of the two. This increasing trend of foreign contribution was also noted by Kaugarset al in the journalOral Surgery Oral Medicine Oral Pathology.1

There are limitations to the present study. TheAJO and the BJOmay not be representative of the international ophthalmic journals from the United States and the United Kingdom respectively. Secondly, the total number of articles may be deceptive as theBJO and the AJOmay have articles such as book reviews, editorials, letters, etc at different frequencies. Thirdly, there is the possibility of inadequate keyword classification of the publications in the journals. Finally, the address of the corresponding author may not always correspond to the country where the research was performed.

In conclusion, our study suggests that the standard of publications has improved in the AJO and theBJO, with an increasing international contribution over the past two decades.


Proprietary interests: None.

Financial support: None.