by Santosh Guru and Oliver Mowforth
It is important to identify ‘research hotspots’ and to analyse the impact of research, because these factors influence the direction of future studies as well as the funding allocated to them. Degenerative Cervical Myelopathy (DCM) is, at present, gravely underrepresented as a research field.
At Myelopathy.org, our goal is to stimulate high-impact research that aligns with the Top 10 Research Priorities that were identified through the multistakeholder RECODE-DCM initiative, in which people with lived experience of DCM, as well as their healthcare professionals, came to a consensus on the key knowledge gaps.
In an important recent study  from Shanghai in China, Mengchen Yin, Chongqing Xu and coauthors investigated both current trends in DCM research, and the impact of that research.
How was this study conducted?
The authors carried out a bibliometric analysis on publications between 2000 and 2019. Bibliometric analysis reviews all publications related to a field to analyse patterns including content, authorship and relationships between authors.
The key questions asked in this study were:
- Which countries, journals and authors published the most articles?
- Which countries had the greatest research impact?
- How strong was the communication in the field?
- Which keywords were most frequently cited?
What was discovered?
The authors found that 81% of DCM research was published in the top 5 countries: US, Japan, China, Canada and India. However, the study found a disparity in the impact of the research: research from the US and Japan had the highest impact, whereas research from India and China had lower impact. This may reflect greater research funding and economical and technological development in the US and Japan, whilst India and China may be limited by lesser technological strength and a healthcare system less conducive to multicentre studies.
The study also identified limited collaboration between countries, institutes and authors.
Keyword analysis showed that research hotspots are cervical sagittal alignment, predictive factors, diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and DCM natural history. Importantly, several of the RECODE-DCM Top 10 Research Priorities, including imaging and natural history, feature amongst the current hotspots.
Why is this important?
There is some cause for optimism! The latest research aligns with the Top 10 Research Priorities. This provides us with reassurance that this recent research is relevant to the whole DCM community: not just to the scientists and healthcare professionals who work with the condition, but also to people who live with DCM and their carers.
A concerning finding is the lack of cooperation between research centres. We hope that as the reach of Myelopathy.org, and the message of the RECODE-DCM initiative, finds a foothold internationally, researchers will come together and synergise their efforts more effectively, to accelerate progress within the field.
The authors’ fascinating bibliometric analysis provides a noteworthy contribution to the literature, and we congratulate them for their important work. More investigations like this will be important over the upcoming years, to measure the traction of the RECODE-DCM initiative and the success of our charity’s mission.
If you are reading this blog, you can help! Please spread the word about Myelopathy.org and the RECODE-DCM initiative, to raise awareness of DCM, grow our community, and synergise future studies.
Want to learn more?
 Yin M, Xu C, Ma J, Ye J and Mo W A Bibliometric Analysis and Visualization of Current Research Trends in the Treatment of Cervical Spondylotic Myelopathy. Global Spine Journal 2021;11(6):988-998. doi:10.1177/2192568220948832