Expert consensus on a protocol for conducting bibliometric analysis of scientific articles on global migration health (GMH)

Migration and human mobility are key social determinants of health. The bidirectional relationship between migration and health is a complex and dynamic one.1 Scholars caution generalisability between and within migrant groups.2 3 A high degree of heterogeneity across migrant groups and movement/mobility patterns mean differing social determinants, health risks and health impacts across the migration phases.4 Migrants may be exposed to various health risks at each stage of the migratory process: from leaving their place of origin, during travel/transit, through arrival at destination, and even upon their return. Conversely, migration may also enable and promote the health of migrants directly through better access to healthcare at their destination, or through remittance flows to migrant households, thereby improving nutrition and healthcare accessibility. Migrant populations have varying vulnerabilities and resiliencies/protective factors depending on their sociodemographic profile, legal status or phase of the migration process.1 5 Moreover, restrictive migration policies, inadequate integration practices and anti-migrant sentiments may inhibit migrants’ access to healthcare, education, and safe and dignified living and working conditions.6 7

The health of migrants is a key global health priority and critical for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.1–3 Assessing the status of research publication activity in global migration health (GMH) is critical to map the existing evidence base, identifying gaps, and advancing evidence-informed policies and practices at the national, regional and global levels. The second Global Consultation on Migrant Health (2017) recognised the need to ‘take stock of current research, map the existing literature, identify areas of focus and gaps, and establish a global research agenda on migration health’.7 The consultation emphasised the importance of analysing the globally published peer-reviewed literature in the field of GMH. Further, strengthening data and research capacity was one of the expected outcomes in the third Global Consultation on the health of refugees and migrants held in June 2023.8

Mapping research evidence on migration health: a priority

Bibliometric analysis is the quantitative analysis of publications (eg, research articles and books) using bibliographic data (ie, author information, citation and publication information) to produce measures of ‘research activity or research publication activity’ (ie, number of publications), ‘research impact’ (ie, citation counts, journal impact factor, etc), and national or international collaborations of authors, institutions or organisations, and countries (based on the coauthorship affiliation). Although the bibliometric method does not provide analysis and interpretation of the content and quality of a research publication, it provides useful information on the growth and impact of research publications, including important gaps, trends, emerging fields and research networks, within a particular field or discipline.9 10 Hence, bibliometrics is firmly established as a scientific specialty and an integral part of research evaluation methodology.

In 2019, a coalition of organisations (ie, Organization for Migration (IOM), Migration Health for South Asia or MiHSA network and its flagship Strengthening Policy and Research Capacities Project funded by the British Council, African Centre for Migration & Society, and Migration Health and Development Research Initiative or MHADRI) facilitated two migration health research workshops in Nepal and South Africa. These meetings highlighted the importance of undertaking national, subregional and regional ‘deep dives’ into mapping migration health research output for both international and internal migrants.

Recognising the need to build research capacity to identify the gaps in research output on migration and health, IOM, together with MHADRI and MiHSA, organised a workshop on undertaking bibliometric analysis in late 2019. The workshop was attended by research scholars and policymakers from South and Southeast Asia. This undertaking led to the formation of the ‘Manila consensus on methodological guidelines in migration health bibliometric analysis’ (hereafter referred to as ‘Manila Consensus Group’) that aims to advance actions towards providing greater conceptual and methodological clarity and analytical rigour for bibliometric analysis, as well as applying such standards to the migration health research field. One of the overarching aims of the Manila Consensus Group includes examining research publication activity in the following areas: global migration health (ie, international migration or movement), internal migration and health, migration health assessments of migrants and migrant health outcomes in areas ranging from infectious disease, non-communicable disease and occupational health South and Southeast Asia.11

The underlying search strategy in this protocol was initially developed through an expert consensus in the ‘Manila Consensus Group’ following a critical review of key search terms, and builds upon the foundational work by Sweileh et al on GMH research (2000–2016).12 The current paper presents the protocol for mapping scientific articles on GMH published from 2017 to 2022. Specifically, a bibliometric analysis will be conducted to determine the research publication activity trends/patterns by author, country, institution/organisation, predefined health themes and specific international migrant/migration topics (eg, international migration type, migrant population) including ‘international human mobility’. Further, this analysis will provide an up-to-date and comprehensive mapping of the latest research evidence on the health of international migrants (ie, including the families of international migrants and short-term international migrant populations, for example, tourists, travellers and seasonal workers). Ultimately, the relevant articles from this study will be housed in a searchable online public repository and may serve as a starting point for high-level evidence reviews by country, regional and/or specific themes.

The seminal bibliometric analysis published in 2018 led to a few relevant research evidence mapping studies at the regional level, including a 2021 study that looked at the scientific research on the health of low-income migrants, including internally displaced populations and refugees in South Asia.13 Another related work was done in response to the growing research on COVID-19, which looked at human mobility, migration and health.14 An information platform on health and migration in the Americas also highlights the growing interest and significance of this field.15

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