2 July 2018

A new research article with the title “Measuring multidisciplinary health research at South African universities: a comparative analysis based on co-authorships and journal subject categories”, has been published in the journal Scientometrics [Online before print]. The article is co-authored by CREST MPhil student Tracy Klarenbeek and her supervisor Professor Nelius Boshoff.

Bibliometric profiles are far from perfect. It is not impossible for two bibliometric profiles of the same science field to differ according to the particular bibliometric method that is used – a possibility often overlooked by decision-makers. To test this in practice, Tracy and Nelius decided to develop a bibliometric profile of multidisciplinary health research at South African universities over a 30-year period (1984–2013), based on two measures of multi-disciplinarity. The first measure used article co-authorship as a proxy for collaboration between authors with health and non-health addresses, and the second measure focussed on articles published in journals with both health and non-health subject categories. They found an article overlap of 25% between the two measures, meaning that one measure would exclude 75% of articles identified by the other. However, both showed an increase in the percentage contribution of multidisciplinary health research to health research over time, and both generated similar profiles of the national institutions that contribute to multidisciplinary health research. Both measures also provided evidence of a sustained increase in the percentage international co-authorship in health research although the second measure gave a markedly lower estimate of the percentage international co-authorship. Thus, although the decisions and strategies to be derived from the two measures would be about the same, the researchers had in fact constructed two conceptually different measures based on two different datasets of articles. They therefore advocate that both measures (and others) be used to enable a more inclusive perspective of multidisciplinary health research.