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A bibliometric measure of translational science

Abstract

Science funders are increasingly requiring evidence of the broader impacts of even basic research. Initiatives such as NIH’s CTSA program are designed to shift the research focus toward more translational research. However, tracking the effectiveness of such programs depends on developing indicators that can track the degree to which basic research is influencing clinical research. We propose a new bibliometric indicator, the TS score, that is relatively simple to calculate, can be implemented at scale, is easy to replicate, and has good reliability and validity properties. This indicator is broadly applicable in settings where the goal is to estimate the degree to which basic research is used in more applied downstream research, relative to use in basic research. The TS score should be of use for a variety of policy analysis and research evaluation purposes.

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Notes

  1. One specific example of translational research is a study by Bhat et al. (1997) that found binding of fusion genes (BCR-ABL) and certain type of protein (c-CBL) only occurs when phosphate (PO43−) is added to acid (amino tyrosine) on a protein. Their finding was applied in treating genetic abnormality in chromosome 22 of leukemia cancer cell and led to the invention of Tasiga® (Sampat and Pincus 2015). Another example of translational research is a study by Garg and Hassid (1990). They found that proliferation of cell lines developed from disaggregated mouse embryos (BALB/c 3T3) are more active when muscle smoother is not present (CGMP-independent mechanism). Their finding was applied in solving respiratory failure problem and this led to the invention of INOmax® (Sampat and Pincus 2015).

  2. Examples include clinical study, clinical trial, phase 1 clinical trial, phase 2 clinical trial, phase 3 clinical trial, phase 4 clinical trial, controlled clinical trial, practice guideline, observational study and randomized controlled trial.

  3. More examples are available on request.

  4. In other words, if the paper was published in 2003, and had 3 cites in the first year (2004), it would appear in the 3 cite row, and the correlations are for the scores for the years 4 + in the future from 2004. If in the following year, it had reached 8 citations, then it would reappear in the 8 cite row, with a starting year of 2005, and the columns representing 4 + years from 2005. This means that the same paper can appear in multiple rows (but not generally every row), and also that a paper can drop out of the table if it acquires a total of 11 + cites. Hence, the Ns can fluctuate up and down across the rows.

  5. To the extent that this is not true, then our measure will include greater measurement error, biasing the correlations toward zero and hence giving us a more conservative test of the validity of our TS score.

  6. For simplicity, we ignore additional “co-first authors”. We do not expect there are a large share of such cases, and, furthermore, if the co-first authors are in the same department, or even in the same class of departments (clinical vs non-clinical), the results would be unchanged if we included them.

  7. There were some issues to consider when classifying publications into clinical papers and non-clinical papers, which led to doing the classification manually. First, the department information did not exist in some listings (e.g., Univ St Andrews, St Andrews KY 16 9ST, Fife, Scotland; RAND Corp, Santa Monica, CA 90401 USA). In these cases, these were coded as missing. Second, the order that university name, department or school name and city are listed were different between articles. Though the department information was listed second in most cases, it was listed first in some cases, later in other cases. Third, the details of the affiliation were different across publications. For instance, some publications provided very detailed information (e.g., Sch Med & Dent, Dept Biostat & Computat Bio) whereas some publications only provided information at the school level (e.g., Sch Life Sci & Technol). To be conservative on classifying a publication into clinical papers, we classified the publications into a clinical article only if there was clear and sufficient information on the discipline. For instance, we did not classify a publication as clinical if the most detailed information of the first author’s affiliation is “School of Medicine”. This is because, in many universities, the School of Medicine is composed of departments conducting basic science work (e.g., Department of Microbiology) as well as clinical work. Therefore, we classified a publication as a clinical paper only if the sub-division of the school is listed and it is closely related to fields of clinical research (e.g., Department of Pediatrics).

  8. LENS.ORG is an open public website managed by Cambia, an independent non-profit organization, that provides linkages between scholarly works, patents and biological sequences (LENS.ORG n.d.). Its patent database covers patent datasets from the USPTO, European Patent Office, WIPO and IP Australia and its scholarly dataset includes PubMed, Crossref and Microsoft Academics (LENS.ORG n.d.). With the collaboration with NIH Pubmed and Crossref teams, the Lens links publications’ Digital Object Identifier (DOI) with NPL in their patent database. Hence, using the DOI of publications, we could check if the publications were cited by patents or not.

  9. Using Pubmed ID instead of DOI for the search may give a higher retrieval rate. However, it would then be more difficult to track the forward citation links of publications to patents with only Pubmed ID but without the DOI.

  10. Both of these measures are available from the iCite website (https://icite.od.nih.gov/analysis). It is not clear what data window is used for calculating the APT scores published on the website. The data were downloaded June 18, 2020.

  11. The inferences from a linear probability model are the same (results available from contact author).

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank Nicole Llewellyn for her help in providing detailed information on the CTSA program, as well as help in data collection and data coding. The authors also thank Bhaven Sampat, Alan Porter and Weihua An for helpful suggestions. The research was supported by NSF award numbers SMA-1646689; DRL-1150114 and EEC-1648035, as well as the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under award number UL1TR000454. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not represent the official views of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the U.S. National Science Foundation or the Ministry of Science and ICT, Republic of Korea. An earlier version of this work appeared in Kim (2019).

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Kim, Y.H., Levine, A.D., Nehl, E.J. et al. A bibliometric measure of translational science. Scientometrics 125, 2349–2382 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11192-020-03668-2

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Keywords

  • Translational research
  • Indicators
  • Citation analysis
  • Research evaluation