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INTERNATIONAL BENCHMARKING OF US IMMUNOLOGY RESEARCH
Additional journals–such as Nature Medicine, Lancet, Journal of Clinical Investigation, and New England Journal of Medicine–could have been analyzed as well but such an analysis was beyond the resources of this panel. Others–such as the European Journal of Immunology, Journal of Immunology (US), International Immunology (Japan), and Immunology (UK)–reflect mainly the country of research origin and so are not appropriate here.
This approach appears to be procedurally the least biased of the three. It does suffer from the usual weaknesses of any analysis based on publication data, including the dominance of English as the language of international discourse and the vagaries of the peer-review journal-acceptance process.
Although the three criteria for evaluating US research efforts in immunology were quite distinct and had different strengths and flaws they led to basically the same conclusion: immunology research in the United States is pre-eminent in the world. The data supporting that conclusion are summarized below and in the following tables.
2.2.1 Reputation Survey
The data-collection measures for the different sub-subfields proved highly variable, including the number of pollees (3-17), the fraction of US-based pollees (41% - 83%), and the number of names cited per pollee (a few to more than 20). In addition, the database for the individual sub-subfields was far too small to permit any kind of statistical analysis. Those points are partially illustrated by some of the entries in Table 2.1. The panel decided to emphasize the data pooled by subfields in which there was generally much less variation in the data-collection measures, although attention was still paid to findings in the context of the sub-subfield groupings for any nuances of interest.
In all four subfields, a clear majority of the names cited were investigators directing US laboratories 60 - 70% in all cases. However, the position of leadership was not so evident in some domains, for example:
In cellular immunology, the sub-subfields of lymphocyte development and self-nonself recognition.
In molecular immunology, the sub-subfield of NK receptors.
In immunogenetics, the sub-subfield of inherited immunodeficiency.
In clinical aspects of immunology, the sub-subfields of tumor immunology and transplantation and immunosuppressive drugs.
In those domains, the proportion of US-based investigators was closer to 50%. The statistical significance of the differences could not be tested, but in general they correspond well to the collective opinion of the panel numbers.