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Who is telling the story? A systematic review of authorship for infectious disease research conducted in Africa, 1980–2016
  1. Rose Mbaye1,
  2. Redeat Gebeyehu2,
  3. Stefanie Hossmann3,
  4. Nicole Mbarga4,5,
  5. Estella Bih-Neh6,
  6. Lucrece Eteki7,
  7. Ohene-Agyei Thelma8,
  8. Abiodun Oyerinde9,
  9. Gift Kiti10,
  10. Yvonne Mburu11,
  11. Jessica Haberer12,13,
  12. Mark Siedner14,
  13. Iruka Okeke9,
  14. Yap Boum7,15
  1. 1Department of Epidemiology, University of Rochester, Rochester, New York, USA
  2. 2Department of Public Health, Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA
  3. 3CTU Bern, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland
  4. 4Department of Public Health, Universite Catholique de l'Afrique Centrale, Yaounde, Cameroon
  5. 5Cameroon Mission, Medecins Sans Frontieres, Geneva, Switzerland
  6. 6Department of Public Health, University of Buea, Buea, Cameroon
  7. 7Epicentre, Yaounde, Centre, Cameroon
  8. 8Department of Pharmacology, University of Ghana, Legon, Ghana
  9. 9Department of Microbiology, University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria
  10. 10Department of Public Health, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, California, USA
  11. 11Independent Researcher, Paris, France
  12. 12Center for Global Health, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  13. 13Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  14. 14Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  15. 15Department of Microbiology, Mbarara University of Science and Technology, Mbarara, Uganda
  1. Correspondence to Professor Yap Boum; yap.boum{at}


Introduction Africa contributes little to the biomedical literature despite its high burden of infectious diseases. Global health research partnerships aimed at addressing Africa-endemic disease may be polarised. Therefore, we assessed the contribution of researchers in Africa to research on six infectious diseases.

Methods We reviewed publications on HIV and malaria (2013–2016), tuberculosis (2014–2016), salmonellosis, Ebola haemorrhagic fever and Buruli ulcer disease (1980–2016) conducted in Africa and indexed in the PubMed database using Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses protocol. Papers reporting original research done in Africa with at least one laboratory test performed on biological samples were included. We studied African author proportion and placement per study type, disease, funding, study country and lingua franca.

Results We included 1182 of 2871 retrieved articles that met the inclusion criteria. Of these, 1109 (93.2%) had at least one Africa-based author, 552 (49.8%) had an African first author and 41.3% (n=458) an African last author. Papers on salmonellosis and tuberculosis had a higher proportion of African last authors (p<0.001) compared with the other diseases. Most of African first and last authors had an affiliation from an Anglophone country. HIV, malaria, tuberculosis and Ebola had the most extramurally funded studies (≥70%), but less than 10% of the acknowledged funding was from an African funder.

Conclusion African researchers are under-represented in first and last authorship positions in papers published from research done in Africa. This calls for greater investment in capacity building and equitable research partnerships at every level of the global health community.

  • epidemiology
  • buruli ulcer
  • tuberculosis
  • HIV
  • clinical trial

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  • Handling editor Seye Abimbola

  • Twitter @yap.boum2

  • Contributors YB and INO conceived the protocol; RM, RG, SH, NFM, EBN, LE, TOA, AO, GK and YB participated in the data collection; RM, RG, SH, MS and JH participated in the data analysis; RM, RG, SH, NFM, EBN, LE, TOA, AO, GK, YM, MS, INO, JH and YB participated in the article writing.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement Data are available in a public, open access repository. Data are available on reasonable request. Data may be obtained from a third party and are not publicly available. All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information.