A Bibliometric History of the Journal GENETICS

By Telis, Natalie; Lehmann, Benjamin, V et al. | Genetics, December 2016 | Go to article overview

A Bibliometric History of the Journal GENETICS


Telis, Natalie, Lehmann, Benjamin, V, Feldman, Marcus W., Pritchard, Jonathan K., Genetics


THIS year, we celebrate a century since the first issue of GENETICS was published. This century has come with incredible breakthroughs and growth in our understanding of genetics, and GENETICS has played an important role in these discoveries. Early discoveries about the mechanics and statistics of inheritance (Morgan et al. 1915; Wright 1931) began to uncloak the mechanisms behind heritability. The ability to begin manipulating traits-through induction of mutation-paved the way for completely novel experimentation (Muller 1928).

The next breakthrough came soon after, with identification of DNA as the crucial molecule inherited from generation to generation (Avery et al. 1944). This was followed by geneticists' new ability to understand and manipulate DNA itself. Its structure was identified (Watson and Crick 1953). Variation and polymorphisms were found and catalogued (Harris 1966; Hubby and Lewontin 1966; Lewontin and Hubby 1966). An organisms' DNA was shown to be not static-in fact, the DNA content of one organism during its lifetime might be manipulated (Luria and Delbruck 1943). Muller's prophetic prediction-that all geneticists might also become bacteriologists (Dove 1997)-came true, and this ushered in a new age of discovery and methodology. And of course, within a few years, the ability to directly read DNA sequence illuminated and transformed genetics once again (Sanger et al. 1977).

Over the century, the journal GENETICS has been not just witness to but the birthplace of many of the major shifts in conceptual and experimental genetics. Its content provides a comprehensive view into many intellectual developments of the last 100 years. With the advent of online repositories of publications, the evolution of the field has been rendered accessible to text-analytic methods. On this centennial, we consider the publications of GENETICS retrospectively, through the lens of text-based computational analysis.

We use computational techniques for textual analysis of GENETICS to quantify its role in the groundbreaking changes in genetics over the last century. We first investigate broad trends in publication metadata and geography and present results concerning global expansion in genetics. We then investigate trends in specific word groups (delineating subfields, methodologies, and organisms studied), as well as broader decade-specific shifts that reflect the rapid growth and change in genetics.

Summary Statistics

Publication numbers and growth

We analyzed all titles and abstracts published in GENETICS prior to June 7, 2016: a total of 18,698 papers. Of these, almost half were published in the last 20 years (Figure 1A). There has been a simultaneous increase in the number of authors per paper, with the mean in 2006-2016 slightly above four (compared to just one author in 1916-1926) (Figure 1B). The journal's growth accelerated in the 1950s, when the number of papers in GENETICS approximately doubled. Though there was a brief plateau, the same rate of expansion recurred between the 1980s and 1990s (Figure 1A).

Geographic distribution

The geographic distribution of authors has shifted over time, reflecting country- and world-wide economic and political trends. The journal's early years were dominated by small regions of the United States, such as New England, with a high density of academic institutions (Figure 2B). Changes reflected the dynamics of research institutions and the corresponding landscape of working geneticists, and this landscape altered substantially throughout the century.

Expansion of the journal in the decades followingWorld War II was especially significant in the United States (Figure 2B). Several events specific to the United States may have affected the expansion of academic publishing during this period. For example, the National Science Foundation Act of 1950 established a significant novel source of funding. Moreover, major shifts in the structure of National Institutes of Health funding established separate study sections to fund genetics, beginning in 1958 (Crow and Owen 2000). …

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