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66th IFLA Council and General
To be sure, comparing each year to the preceding one, clearly shows that the annual rate of growth fluctuated and was neither identical nor linear.
On the average, the percentage (r) by which the size of the literature increased each year was 30.9% , and the formula r = 100 (eb - 1) yields b = 0.269 (doubling time d = 2.6 years). But, substituting this b figure in the commonly used exponential growth function Yt = a ebt should have yield 5140 publications in the 19th year (1994), which obviously is not the case here.
However, calculating r and b in a different way, by substituting Yt in the exponential growth function with Y19 = 706 (number of publications in 1994) yields : b = 0.16 , r = 17.35% and d = 4.33 years, which are much more reasonable.
As already mentioned, Price (1963, 1975) found a growth rate for scientific literature of approximately 5% over the past two centuries, corresponding to a doubling time of 15 years. Ravichandra Rao and Meera (1991) found a growth rate of 6.6% for mathematics, and growth rates of 12% to 16.5% for eight scientific databases for 1968 -1987. Compared to these figures, and especially to the 15% growth rate found for MEDLINE, the rate found here for the field of alternative medicine is rather impressive. A comparison to former growth studies in other fields reveals that the field of alternative medicine is still on the steep part of the growth curve, not yet reaching the saturation stage.
Grouping the twenty year period checked (1975-1994) into four five-year periods (shown in Table 2) the rapid growth can be seen from another angle : the number of publications rose from 195 in the first period (1975-1979) to 443 in the second one (1980-1984), then to 860 in 1985-1989, jumping to 2236 in the last period (1990-1994).
Number of Publications and Rates of Increase According to Five-year Periods
|% of Total||Increase in %(*)||"Bradford's Multiplier"|
Comparison between periods shows that 60% of the literature in this subject area was published during the last period checked (1990-1994) and about one-fourth during the preceding five years (1985-1989). Altogether, 83% of the literature was published during the second decade (1985-1994), while only 17% during the first decade checked (1975-1984).
Comparing each five-year period to the preceding one, one may see that the growth rate was almost 100% or even higher, or if the four periods are looked at as analogous to the classic Bradfordian Zones, the Multiplier fluctuates between 1.94 and 2.60, averaging 2.27. The relatively high rate in the second period (127%) characteristic to many areas in their beginning stage, is not surprising, since the basic figure (195 publications) was relatively low, even a small addition of 248 publications creates an increase of over 125%. Although 417 publications were added during the third period (1985-1989) the increase rate is lower, due to the higher base figure (443). The striking finding is the relatively high increase rate of 160% during the last period (1990-1994) expressing the new 2236 publications added throughout these five years.
It may be argued that the relatively high increase rates may have been affected not only by real growth in the number of publications, but also by changes in coverage policy by some of the 18 databases searched, done throughout the twenty-year period. A decision to widen the coverage and to include certain journals and/or topics uncovered yet, may of course, contribute to growth rates higher than those that existed in actuality. At any rate, even if the 'real' growth rates were in fact slightly lower, the abovementioned argument still supports our underlying assumption that the field of alternative medicine has undergone a significant transformation during the twenty years checked, emerging into a widely-recognized field, and undergoing a process of growing consolidation with the conventional medical-scientific establishment.
2. Number of Keywords
A quantitative analysis showed that the number of different keywords in article titles grew from 36 in the first period (1975-1979) to 51 in the last one (1990-1994) while the parallel increase in the number of different descriptors was significantly higher, from 30 to 103. Altogether, the total number of different keywords, whether appearing in titles or in descriptors, was about 350.
However, after eliminating synonyms and closely-related words, it appeared that the 'net' increase was more than double, from about 43 different keywords and descriptors in the first period to about 113 in the last one, meaning an addition of about 70 new keywords during fifteen years.
3. Place of Publication
Table 3 gives the frequency distributions and ranking of place of publication of all items retrieved in the study, in descending order of the figures of the first period, for each of the four periods checked. Clearly, The US and the UK are significantly higher than all other countries throughout all four periods. Their share grew steadily from about 44% in the first period (1975-1979) to more than 53% in the second, dropping to 50% in the third and rising considerably to 70% in the last one (1990-1994), being 62% for the whole period of twenty years. A significant shift occurred, however, in the proportions of the two leading countries: while in the first period both had an equal number of publications, with UK's share even slightly higher, the opposite is true for the other three periods, especially for the last one, in which the ratio has drastically changed and the percentage of publications published in the US (46.3%) was double that of the UK (23.6%).
For most other countries, generally speaking, there have been decreases, mainly in the last period : Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Scandinavia, Japan, India, China. The proportion for France was on the rise during the first three periods, but dropped in the last one, while for Holland the opposite is true. It is also noteworthy that France, Germany and Switzerland maintained their places, with slight variations, among the seven leading countries during all four periods checked.
Apparently, one would expect that much higher proportions of the literature in the area of alternative medicine to be published in countries like : China, India, and Japan. Many publications probably appear in China each year in this area, but they are either not in English, not covered by the various databases, or not designated as alternative medicine.
Place of Publication of Publications Dealing with alternative medicine
(In descending order of the first period, 1975-1979)
Similarly, it is very likely to assume that many more than the 13 items found in this study, were published in the former Soviet Union throughout this period of twenty years, but they were not included in the 18 databases searched. It is likely to explain the very low proportions found here by the strong western and English language biases of the 18 databases searched.
Place of Publication of Publications Dealing with alternative medicine
(for the Whole Period : 1975-1994)
Considering the proportions published in other English-speaking countries (Canada, Australia, etc.) one may estimate that at least 68% of all publications found in this study are in English. Admittedly, this high proportion does not reflect the real situation in the field and is probably affected by the abovementioned English-language bias of the 18 'source' databases, from which the sample was drawn. This inherent bias probably explains to some extent the negligible number of items in the sample originating in non-western countries.
However, since the bibliographical databases has become the main tool for scientists for literature update, it seems that the English language has become the 'lingua franca' of the field , as has happened in many other fields during recent decades.