OBJECTIVES: To evaluate the distribution and scope of papers published in the world in otolaryngology (ORL) journals and to compare the impact of this research among different countries. METHODS: Papers published in the 29 ORL journals screened by the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI, Philadelphia, PA, USA) in the 6-year period 1995-2000 were considered. The journal impact factor (IF), the source country population, and gross domestic product (GDP) were recorded. All key words, both those assigned by the authors and those attributed by ISI, were identified and their frequency was calculated using a special-purpose program. RESULTS: The total number of papers in the ORL literature during the period 1995-2000 increased from 2036 to 3705. A percentage varying between 47.7% (1995) and 36.1% (2000) was published by EU authors whereas the USA accounted for a percentage varying between 28.1% (1995) and 38.8% (2000). In 2000, the leading countries were the USA, the EU, Japan, Canada, and Australia. In Europe the UK (28.5% of papers), Germany (26.2%), Italy (7.2%), Sweden (5.8 %), France (5.5%), and the Netherlands (4.9%) showed a very good performance trend. In the same year, the mean IF of EU papers was 0.8 in comparison with 1.1 for Australia and the USA and 0.9 for the world. In 1997, 1341 key words attributed by the authors and 696 attributed by ISI appeared in the ORL literature. Less than a tenth of them were cited more than twice. The leading key words were "cancer" for disease and "surgery" for treatment. CONCLUSIONS: Bibliometric findings are useful to follow research trends. Our data show high scientific production of relatively small countries. Dispersion of key words should be avoided and journal editors should promote their standardization.
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