In radiology research, collaboration is key to clout

Radiology research is maximally influential when it’s conducted collaboratively and the contributors hail from multiple disciplines, institutions and geographic locations.

So found Andrew Rosenkrantz, MD, Ujas Parikh, MD, and Richard Duszak Jr., MD, when they assessed associations between various forms of collaboration and the citation impact of published radiology research.

The Journal of the American College of Radiology published their study online Nov. 1.

Rosenkrantz and colleagues looked at 876 research articles from 2010 that had at least one radiologist as an author and were published in JACR, Radiology, the American Journal of Roentgenology and Academic Radiology.

The team manually extracted various characteristics related to the disciplines and institutions of all authors, then tallied subsequent citations of the 876 articles through September 2016 as indexed by the subscription-based Web of Science service.

They found significantly boosted citation counts associated with studies authored by seven or more researchers versus those with six or fewer.

This effect held for various forms of collaboration, including those with nonuniversity and nonclinical investigators.

In fact, having at least one non-academic contributor and having a nonclinical contributor were both associated with greater citation counts.

Going global

The single most powerful independent predictor of high subsequent citation counts, and thus of impact on scholars, turned out to be collaboration by authors whose geographic scope was international.

Commenting on this finding, Rosenkrantz et al. cite a prior study showing that higher citation counts associated with greater distances between contributing countries within Europe.

They submit that internationally collaborative studies “may explore particularly important or unique topics, require a more robust study concept to justify the expenses and resources required for successful completion, or have the potential to diffuse to very wide audiences.”

Getting there from here

In their discussion, Rosenkrantz et al. suggest a number of ways to increase collaboration in radiology research.

“Individual investigators could expand their research portfolios by pursuing new avenues of investigation that may readily lend themselves to interdisciplinary collaboration, whether relating to basic sciences or to such areas as outcomes, effectiveness and population health,” they write. “Engaging investigators in other disciplines within one’s local institution may be a natural place to start such efforts.”

From there, radiologists could seek out opportunities to lead multicenter trials, which would naturally foster closer working relationships with potential research collaborators at outside institutions.

Individual institutions, radiology societies and funding agencies all could do more to help open doors to more multi-institutional and multidisciplinary research, the authors add.

Researching relevance

Rosenkrantz, Parikh and Duszak acknowledge their use of raw citation counts as a limitation in their study design, as such uncontextualized numbers offer no insights into article quality, effect on real-world patient care or reach beyond readers of peer-reviewed medical literature.

“Nonetheless, citation count is a readily available and reproducible measure that has been widely applied in the context of bibliometric evaluations and is currently of particular relevance to academic faculty members for promotion and tenure,” they write.

“With respect to subsequent journal article citations, various forms of collaboration are associated with greater scholarly impact of published radiology research,” the authors conclude. “To enhance the relevance of their research, radiology investigators are encouraged to pursue collaboration across traditional disciplinary, institutional and geographic boundaries.”