Emergence of Evolutionary Medicine: Publication Trends from 1991–2010
Author(s): Joe Alcock
Background. Evolutionary medicine, the intersection of evolutionary biology and medical sciences, has grown in the last two decades. However, this new scientific discipline continues to have a limited impact in clinical medicine and medical education. As this field undergoes its own evolution, it has become necessary to better define this area of scientific inquiry by characterizing trends in publication, terminology, and the research focus of its practitioners. Methods. In order to identify publication trends in evolutionary medicine, the author performed a bibliometric analysis of citations related to evolution and medicine using PubMed, the ISI Web of Knowledge, Google Scholar, and the Google database of digitized books. Results. Usage patterns suggest that “evolutionary medicine” is supplanting its predecessor synonym “Darwinian medicine” in the scientific literature. In addition, the explosion in genomics and proteomics has resulted in a recent increase in medical research using phylogenetic techniques. Publications identified by searches for natural selection and adaptation are fewer in number and show linear growth in the literature. Keyword searches show that the terms “Darwinian medicine” and “evolutionary medicine” appeared more frequently than for the related terms “evolutionary psychiatry,” “evolutionary epidemiology” or “evolutionary immunology.” Conclusions. These results support the view that evolutionary medicine is a well-grounded concept that has emerged as a distinct area of scientific inquiry.