, Volume 99, Issue 2, pp 549–579 | Cite as

A bibliometric study of the world’s research activity in sustainable development and its sub-areas using scientific literature

  • Saeed-Ul HassanEmail author
  • Peter Haddawy
  • Jia Zhu


This paper presents a bibliometric study of the world’s research activity in Sustainable Development using scientific literature. The study was conducted using data from the Scopus database over the time period of 2000–2010. We investigated the research landscape in Sustainable Development at country level and at institute level. Sustainable Development and its sub-areas are defined by keywords vetted by the domain experts, allowing publications to be identified independent of the journals and conferences in which they are published. The results indicate that institutes strong in Sustainable Development overall may not be strong in all sub-areas and that institutes not strong in Sustainable Development overall may have significant niche strengths in a given sub-area. It is also noted that China appears strong in terms of publication output in Sustainable Development and its sub-areas but it does not appear strong in terms of citation counts. The information produced in this study can be useful for government research agencies in terms of understanding how to more effectively knit together the various niche strengths in the country; and for the institutes to find strategic partners that can coordinate in niche areas of Sustainable Development and complement their strengths. In order to conduct bibliometric analysis in an interdisciplinary research area, the keyword collection approach appears to be very useful. This approach is flexible and can be used to conduct such analysis for interdisciplinary research fields.


Bibliometrics Sustainable development Interdisciplinary research fields 



We are thankful to the domain experts who helped us to vet the keywords to define sub-areas of Sustainable Development.


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Copyright information

© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, Hungary 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.COMSATS Institute of Information TechnologyLahorePakistan
  2. 2.Mahidol UniversityNakhon PathomThailand
  3. 3.School of Computer Science, South China Normal UniversityGuang ZhouChina

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