Egypt’s peer-reviewed publication output best in Africa

Egypt has become the top producer of peer-reviewed journal publications in Africa, according to data from SCImago, a platform that has some of the most comprehensive citation and abstract databases of the global research output in sciences, social sciences, arts and humanities.

The North African country beat South Africa, which is now in second place. South Africa had been the top producer of research in Africa since 1996, when the SCImago Journal and Country Rank platform was launched at the University of Granada in Madrid, Spain.

Egypt has been ranked in 30th position out of 232 countries. Following South Africa’s 29th position in 2017 and 2018, it is the highest rank achieved by an African country.

The publications were drawn from 27 thematic areas, containing 313 specific subject areas from 34,100 peer-reviewed journals that were published by more than 5,000 international publishers.

According to SCImago’s website, most of the publications had been listed by Scopus, which is the largest abstract and citation database of peer-reviewed literature in the world.

Datasets that were released in May show that Egypt increased its research output by almost 19% in 2020, as it produced 32,323 publications, compared to 26,223 publications in 2019, an increase of 6,100 publications.

This was against South Africa’s 32,174 publications in 2020 as compared to 29,733 publications in the previous year. In this regard, South Africa had increased its 2019 output of 29,733 by 2,441 or 7.6% and was ranked in 31st position.

But, unlike many other African countries with research output concentrated in fields that are supported by donors, Egypt’s research output appears across a wide spectrum, including agricultural sciences, computer applications and networks, engineering and technology, physical sciences, medicine, veterinary sciences, but less in the social sciences, arts and humanities.

Computer technologies

Last year, Egypt led other African countries in the production of journal papers in various sciences, such as chemistry with 1,978 papers, 1,446 in physics, 1,391 in biochemistry, 1,021 in analytical chemistry, 841 in atomic and molecular physics and 528 in mathematics.

In engineering and technology, Egypt still led other African countries by publishing more papers in electrical and electronic engineering (2,169), materials science (1,884), energy engineering and power technology (1,171), chemical engineering (1,055), mechanical engineering (939), instrumentation engineering, control and systems engineering (618), civil and structural engineering (572), instrumentation engineering (552) and signal processing (534).

Datasets also showed Egypt performed well in computer-related technologies, as it took first position in Africa in producing journal articles in computer science (1,167), computer science applications (1,097), computer networks and communication (1,012), and software development (603).

But the country faltered slightly in computer vision and pattern recognition, as it produced only 155 publications compared to South Africa’s 376, Morocco’s 342 and Tunisia’s 204. Egypt’s publications slipped marginally in artificial intelligence and robotics, as it produced 870 papers compared to Morocco’s 876 – the best output in the continent in the field.

A medical research hub

Whether through partnerships with countries in Western Europe and North America, as recently indicated by researchers at the Institute for Scientific Information, SCImago’s datasets indicated that Egypt was becoming a hub for medical research in a range of specific fields.

The country published 4,193 papers in general medicine, 946 in pharmaceutical sciences, 914 in drug discovery, 911 in surgery, 589 in biomedical engineering and 500 in oncology – the best research output in these fields on the continent.

Egyptian researchers took first position in other medical fields by publishing 421 papers in microbiology, 397 in cardiology, 379 in dermatology, 338 in general cancer research, 327 in immunology, 309 in neuroscience and 269 in child health.

In forensic medicine, researchers in Egypt last year published 175 papers followed by South Africa with 123 papers.

In medical areas that are robustly supported by donors in Sub-Saharan Africa, Egypt was outperformed by South Africa, for instance in output of publications on infectious diseases, parasitology, virology, nutrition and dietetics, and microbiology medicine. The country did not perform well in aesthetic medicine as well as in gerontology, which is the study of old age.

Upward trajectory

Egypt performed well in agricultural sciences, as it was leading African countries in various disciplines that included plant science (910), crop science (715), biotechnology (581), genetics (497), food science (493) and cell biology (478).

Egypt also did well in niche scientific fields such as nephrology, the specialised study of kidneys, where researchers there published 127 papers as compared to South Africa’s 59 and Nigeria’s 47, in an area in which only 26 countries published, but half of these countries published fewer than five papers each during the period of analysis.

But, despite its strong publishing in sciences, Egypt did not perform well in education, as it published only 175 publications, compared to South Africa’s 1,443 and Nigeria’s 399.

As in most countries in Africa, researchers in the social sciences, arts and humanities in Egypt did not perform well, especially in gender studies, philosophy, political science, leadership and management, visual arts and performing arts, music, marketing and population studies.

But, despite those shortcomings, what SCImago’s datasets revealed in the past five years or so was that Egypt’s research capacity is on an upward trajectory with its share of Africa’s publications in peer-reviewed journals at about 23%.