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Bibliometric analysis of gaps in research on asbestos-related diseases: declining emphasis on public health over 26 years
  1. Ro-Ting Lin1,2,
  2. Matthew John Soeberg2,
  3. Lung-Chang Chien3,
  4. Scott Fisher4,
  5. Jukka Takala5,
  6. Richard Lemen6,
  7. Tim Driscoll7,
  8. Ken Takahashi2
  1. 1 Department of Occupational Safety and Health, College of Public Health, China Medical University, Taichung, Taiwan
  2. 2 Asbestos Diseases Research Institute, Concord Clinical School, University of Sydney, Rhodes, New South Wales, Australia
  3. 3 Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, University of Nevada, School of Community Health Sciences, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
  4. 4 National Centre for Asbestos Related Diseases, University of Western Australia, Nedlands, Western Australia, Australia
  5. 5 International Commission on Occupational Health, Milano, Italy
  6. 6 Department of Environmental Health, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Canton, Georgia, USA
  7. 7 School of Public Health, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Ken Takahashi; ken.takahashi{at}


Objectives The global burden of asbestos-related diseases (ARDs) is significant, and most of the world’s population live in countries where asbestos use continues. We examined the gaps between ARD research and suggestions of WHO and the International Labour Organization on prevention.

Methods From the Web of Science, we collected data on all articles published during 1991–2016 and identified a subset of ARD-related articles. We classified articles into three research areas—laboratory, clinical and public health—and examined their time trends. For all and the top 11 countries publishing ARD-related articles, we calculated the proportions of all ARD-related articles that were in each of the three areas, the average rates of ARD-related articles over all articles, and the average annual per cent changes of rates.

Results ARD-related articles (n=14 284) accounted for 1.3‰ of all articles in 1991, but this had declined to 0.8‰ by 2016. Among the three research areas, the clinical area accounted for the largest proportion (65.0%), followed by laboratory (26.5%) and public health (24.9%). The public health area declined faster than the other areas, at −5.7% per year. Discrepancies were also observed among the top 11 countries regarding emphasis on public health research, with Finland and Italy having higher, and China and the Netherlands lower, emphases.

Conclusions There is declining emphasis on the public health area in the ARD-related literature. Under the ongoing global situation of ARD, primary prevention will remain key for some time, warranting efforts to rectify the current trend in ARD-related research.

  • asbestos
  • public health
  • research governance
  • asbestos-related diseases

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  • Contributors R-TL contributed to the study design, literature reviews, data collection, data analysis, data interpretation and writing of the manuscript. KT contributed to the study design, data classification, data interpretation and writing of the manuscript. MJS contributed to data classification and writing of the manuscript. L-CC contributed to statistical analysis, data interpretation and writing of the manuscript. SF, JT, RL and TD contributed to the data interpretation and writing of the manuscript.

  • Funding This work was supported by the Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency (AA17/22) and the China Medical University (CMU106-N-27).

  • Competing interests RL testifies in asbestos litigation.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement All available data can be obtained by contacting the corresponding author.

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