A bibliometric analysis of the 100 most cited Cochrane reviews

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Uthman O, Okwundu C

Background: Systematic reviews can be very useful decision making tools because they objectively summarize large amounts of information, identify gaps in medical research and identify beneficial or harmful interventions. The number of citations an article receives after its publication reflects its impact on the scientific community, but also the impact of the authors’ creativity, a specific institution, or even a country in the field studied. There were a few recent attempts to identify and analyze the ‘most cited articles’ in various specialties. However, the analysis of top-cited Cochrane reviews has not yet been reported. Objectives: To identify the 100 most cited Cochrane reviews. To assess whether or not citation classics exist in Cochrane reviews and to examine characteristics of frequently cited Cochrane reviews. Methods: The 100 most frequently cited Cochrane reviews were identified using the database of the Science Citation Index of the Institute for Scientific Information. The 100 most cited articles were selected for further analysis. Results: The most cited article received 77 citations, and the least-cited article received 13 citations (Figure 1). These articles were published between 2005 and 2008. The 100 originated from 17 countries (Figure 2), with the United Kingdom contributing 37 articles, followed by Canada (n=13), USA (n=11) and Australia (n=10). Obstetrics and gynaecology, cancer, diabetes mellitus, neuromuscular disease and smoking cessations were the main topics covered. Considerable attention was also given to asthma, dementia, chronic inflammatory disease, obesity and hypertension. Conclusion: At present, no Cochrane review can be classified as a ‘citation classic’. The United Kingdom, Canada, and United States have taken leadership in the production of citation classic papers. The low citations received by Cochrane reviews may be due to improper citations by authors and co-publication as a journal article. There is a need for authors to correctly cite Cochrane reviews.