Cannabis publication analysis using density-equalising mapping and research output benchmarking

B H Vogelzang, C Scutaru, S Mache, K Vitzthum, B Kuzma, K Mutawakel, D A Groneberg, D Quarcoo


Background. Cannabis has been a topic of political and medical controversy in many countries over the past century. Although many publications on this topic are available, there is currently no comprehensive evaluation of global research activities in the field.

Objective. This study was conducted in order to provide a quantitative and qualitative analysis of the worldwide research output on cannabis.

Methods. In a quantitative approach, items concerning cannabis published between 1900 and 2008 were retrieved from the ISI Web of Science databases developed by the Thompson Institute of Scientific Information and analysed using scientometric methods. In a second step, research fields of growing interest were identified.

Results. We found that publications on this topic increased during the late 1960s, as well as during the period 1990 - 2008. We noted that South Africa was one of the countries with a high research output, having published numerous articles on cannabis. A comparison of cannabis with other drugs (e.g. alcohol, tobacco, cocaine and heroin) showed that in relation to the proportion of respective drug users, cocaine and heroin are overly represented in terms of research output. When analysing the main subjects of the publications, psychiatry was prominent, especially with regard to research on psychosis.

Conclusion. There is increasing interest in research on cannabis. The research only partially reflects the drug’s importance with regard to number of users.


Scientometrics, cannabis, density-equalizing mapping, output benchmarking

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Submitted: 24 December 2009
Published: 01 December 2010

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South African Journal of Psychiatry    |    ISSN: 1608-9685 (PRINT)    |    ISSN: 2078-6786 (ONLINE)