Quality vs. quantity: Article publication and citation rates in radiology journals

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Radiology journals tend to publish more articles in content categories associated with lower citation frequencies, and therefore less potential impact on human health and the advancement of the practice of medicine, according to study results published online in the journal  Academic Radiology.

Peer-reviewed literature functions as the “grapevine” of biomedical research, allowing investigators to share work, discuss results and trending topics, and influence clinical management and decision-making.

But what types of articles published in radiology journals—studies, trials, reviews, etc.—carry the most evidential weight?

“Researchers within radiology have been challenged to focus upon research that meets the highest of standards of evidence-based medicine and that is most anticipated to advance human health,” according to Andrew Rosenkrantz, MD, and his colleagues at NYU Langone Medical Center. “An awareness of current trends regarding the most common article types within the radiology literature, as well as variation in impact among these types (as assessed by the frequency of citations), may help inform investigators and journal editors regarding key areas of priority for subsequent research design.”

Rosenkrantz and his team set out to assess the most common types of articles published in radiology journals and to identify corresponding trends and rates of citation. To do so, the researchers used the  PubMed database to find all examples of the following article types published in radiology journals: validation studies, meta-analyses, clinical trials, comparative studies, evaluation studies, guideline, multicenter studies, randomized studies, reviews, editorials, case reports and technical reports. They then calculated the percentage of published articles within each category and determined two-year citation rates using the  Web of Science online library.

They found that technical reports, evaluation studies and case reports were the most commonly published in radiology journals, each representing between 5-6 percent of all published articles. Conversely, randomized trials, multicenter studies and meta-analyses were the least-published article type, at 1-2 percent each, but were among the most regularly cited articles in radiology literature.

“Radiology journals have historically had relatively greater representation of less frequently cited publication types,” the authors concluded. “Various strategies, including methodological training, multidisciplinary collaboration, national support networks, as well as encouragement of higher level of evidence by funding agencies and radiology journals themselves, are warranted to improve the impact of radiological research.”