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Local and foreign authorship of maternal health interventional research in low- and middle-income countries: systematic mapping of publications 2000-2012.

Chersich MF, Blaauw D, Dumbaugh M, Penn-Kekana L, Dhana A, Thwala S, Bijlmakers L, Vargas E, Kern E, Becerra-Posada F, Kavanagh J, Mannava P, Mlotshwa L, Becerril-Montekio V, Footman K, Rees H

  • Journal Globalization and health

  • Published 23 Jun 2016

  • Volume 12

  • ISSUE 1

  • Pagination 35

  • DOI 10.1186/s12992-016-0172-x


Researchers in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) are under-represented in scientific literature. Mapping of authorship of articles can provide an assessment of data ownership and research capacity in LMICs over time and identify variations between different settings.

Systematic mapping of maternal health interventional research in LMICs from 2000 to 2012, comparing country of study and of affiliation of first authors. Studies on health systems or promotion; community-based activities; and haemorrhage, hypertension, HIV/STIs and malaria were included. Following review of 35,078 titles and abstracts, 2292 full-text publications were included. Data ownership was measured by the proportion of articles with an LMIC lead author (author affiliated with an LMIC institution).

The total number of papers led by an LMIC author rose from 45.0/year in 2000-2003 to 98.0/year in 2004-2007, but increased only slightly thereafter to 113.1/year in 2008-2012. In the same periods, the proportion of papers led by a local author was 58.4 %, 60.8 % and 60.1 %, respectively. Data ownership varies markedly between countries. A quarter of countries led more than 75 % of their research; while in 10 countries, under 25 % of publications had a local first author. Researchers at LMIC institutions led 56.6 % (1297) of all papers, but only 26.8 % of systematic reviews (65/243), 29.9 % of modelling studies (44/147), and 33.2 % of articles in journals with an Impact Factor ≥5 (61/184). Sub-Saharan Africa authors led 54.2 % (538/993) of studies in the region, while 73.4 % did in Latin America and the Caribbean (223/304). Authors affiliated with United States (561) and United Kingdom (207) institutions together account for a third of publications. Around two thirds of USAID and European Union funded studies had high-income country leads, twice as many as that of Wellcome Trust and Rockefeller Foundation.

There are marked gaps in data ownership and these have not diminished over time. Increased locally-led publications, however, does suggest a growing capacity in LMIC institutions to analyse and articulate research findings. Differences in author attribution between funders might signal important variations in funders' expectations of authorship and discrepancies in how funders understand collaboration. More stringent authorship oversight and reconsideration of authorship guidelines could facilitate growth in LMIC leadership. Left unaddressed, deficiencies in research ownership will continue to hinder alignment between the research undertaken and knowledge needs of LMICs.