Co-authorship Network Analysis: A Powerful Tool for Strategic Planning of Research, Development and Capacity Building Programs on Neglected Diseases

Research Question: How should we allocate funds to a small, geographically dispersed and economically disparate scientific community in order to maximize technological development and innovation in our area of concern?

The objective of this research was to provide scientifically sound information to fairly and efficaciously allocate financial resources to support research, technological development and innovation on six diseases that disproportionately hit poor and marginalized populations in Brazil: dengue, Chagas disease, leishmaniases, leprosy, malaria and tuberculosis, ensuring at least 30% of the financial resources were awarded in the three Brazilian geographic regions where these diseases are still prevalent (North, Northeast and Center-West).

The selection and prioritization of research proposals is always a challenge, particularly when addressing neglected tropical diseases, as the scientific communities are relatively small, funding is usually limited and the disparity between the science and technology capacity of different countries and regions is enormous. Lessons from past eradication campaigns demonstrated the importance of maximizing the utilization of scarce human and financial resources, functioning within existing health service structures and encouraging research at all levels. These lessons would mean identifying and engaging health services, researchers and institutions from developed and endemic countries, an immense challenge that co-authorship network analysis could help address, providing a substantial contribution to global health.

Publications by Brazilian authors on the seven diseases were retrieved as raw data files from the ‘Web of Knowledge’ database of the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI).

Analysis conclusions:

  • Component analysis generated a picture of the overall research network structure, revealing how fragmented it is and therefore providing valuable information on its status and opportunities for strategic management
  • We realized that institutions acting as network cutpoints were critical key players as they were responsible for keeping several institutions from these regions in the loop and should therefore be considered as fundamental partners for training, capacity building and institutional strengthening.


VP – Standardization of names and addresses of authors and institutions. Publications by disease and year by Brazilian authors for the 2001–2008 period. Co-occurrence matrices of authorship data (i.e. co-authorships between authors (authors x authors matrices) and institutions (institutions x institutions matrices).

UCINET – Identification and characterization of network components. Identification and characterization of network cut-points

Authors: Carlos Medicis Morel , Suzanne Jacob Serruya, Gerson Oliveira Penna, Reinaldo Guimara
OrganizationsNational Institute for Science and Technology on Innovation on Neglected Diseases (INCT/IDN), Center for Technological Development in Health (CDTS), Oswaldo CruzFoundation (Fiocruz), Department of Science and Technology (DECIT), Secretary of Science, Technology and Strategic Goods (SCTIE), Ministry of Health, Brasilia, Brazil, Secretary of Health Surveillance (SVS), Ministry of Health, Brasilia, Brazil, Secretary of Science, Technology and Strategic Goods (SCTIE), Ministry of Health, Brasilia, Brazil
Source:  PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases
Year: 2009

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