IACC/OARC ASD Research Publications AnalysisSkip Over Navigation Links Skip Over Navigation Links
- Executive Summary
- Chapter One: Trends in Autism Research Topics and Publications
- What research themes are prominent in autism publications?
- How were 2010 publications distributed across IACC Strategic Plan Critical Question areas?
- How much has autism research grown?
- Which Critical Question research areas are showing the strongest growth?
- Main findings from analysis of trends in autism research topics and publications
- Spotlight On Risk Factor Research
- Spotlight On Treatments And Interventions Research
- Chapter Two: Impact and Maturity Of The Autism Research Field
- Chapter Three: Global Autism Research Funders
- Chapter Four: Global Autism Publications and Collaborations
- Appendix I: Methodology for Identifying ASD-Related Research Publications and Supplemental Primary Research Publication Counts
- Appendix II: Automated Categorization of ASD Publications (1980-2009)
- Appendix III: Web of Science® Journal Subject Categories
- Appendix IV: Web of Science® Citation Data
- Appendix V: Full Funder List for 2010 ASD Publications
- Appendix VI: Country Co-Authorship Pairs in 2010 ASD Publications
- Appendix VII: 2010 ASD Publication Counts by Country
- Appendix VIII: Methodology for Calculating World Share of Autism Research Publications
- List of Figures
- Figure 1. The Seven IACC Strategic Plan Critical Questions and Corresponding Research Areas
- Figure 2. Autism Research Pipeline
- Figure 3. Research Methods Used in the ASD Research Publications Analysis
- Figure 4. Main Questions Addressed in the ASD Research Publications Analysis Report
- Figure 5. Autism Publications Word Cloud
- Figure 6. Distribution of 2010 Primary Research Publications within the Seven Critical Question Areas of the IACC Strategic Plan
- Figure 7. Growth in ASD-Related Publications, 1980 to 2010
- Figure 8. Growth in ASD Research Publications by Critical Question Area within the IACC Strategic Plan, 1981 to 2010
- Figure 9. Number and Fold Growth of ASD Publications from 2000 to 2010
- Figure 10. Publication Output and Trends in Subcategories of Autism Risk Factor Research
- Figure 11. Publication Output and Trends in Subcategories of Autism Treatments and Interventions Research
- Figure 12. Autism Research Citation Rate from 1980 to 2009
- Figure 13. Impact of Autism Publications Compared to Average Citation Rates in Related Publications, 1995 to 2009
- Figure 14. Proportion of Highly Cited Autism Publications from 1995 to 2009
- Figure 15. Types of US and non-US Funders Acknowledged in 2010 Autism Publications
- Figure 16. Overlap Between Different Types of Funders Acknowledged in 2010 Autism Publications
- Figure 17. Patterns of Strategic Research Emphasis by Type of Funder in 2010 Autism Publications
- Figure 18. Extent of Global Autism Research and International Collaborations in 2010
- Figure 19. Global Growth in Autism Publications by Country, 1980 to 2010
- Figure 20. Author Countries for ASD-Related Publications as a Share of the World Total, 1980 to 2010
- Figure 21. International Autism Publication Collaboration Networks in 1990, 1995, 2000, 2005, and 2010
- Figure 22. Extent of International Collaboration in Autism Research, 1980 to 2010
- Figure 23. Impact of Collaborative International Autism Publications, 1995 to 2009
- Figure 24. Impact of Collaborative Publications with Authors from Multiple Institutions, 2000 to 2010
- Figure 25. State by State Number of US Autism Publications in 2010
- Figure 26. Extent of Institutional and International Collaboration in US Autism Research, 1980 to 2010
- Figure A-27. Growth in ASD Primary Research Publications by Critical Question Area, 1981 to 2010
- Figure A-28. Number and Fold Growth of ASD Primary Research Publications from 2000 to 2010
- Figure A-29. Primary Research Publication Output and Trends in Subcategories of Autism Risk Factor Research
- Figure A-30. Primary Research Publication Output and Trends in Subcategories of Autism Treatments and Interventions Research
- List of Tables
- Table 1. 2010 Funders Acknowledged on 10 or More Publications
- Table 2. Top 25 Countries Publishing Autism Research in 2010
- Table 3. Top 25 Institutions Publishing Autism Research Globally in 2010
- Table A-4. Web of Science® and MEDLINE Article Types Classified as Secondary Articles
- Table A-5. Journals in which All Publications Were Classified as Secondary Research
- Table A-6. Comparison Group: Journal Subject Categories Comprising 75% of ASD Publications Since 1980
Spotlight on Treatments and Interventions Research
Publication Output and Trends in Subcategories of Autism Treatments and Interventions Research
Figure 11. Publication Output and Trends in Subcategories of Autism Treatments and Interventions Research. The pie graph (top) illustrates relative proportions of research articles published in 2010 on seven subcategories of ASD Treatments and Interventions research and the line graph (bottom) shows the change in number of publications in each subcategory over time, from 1980 to 2010. The most prolific areas include research on Behavioral, Medical/Pharmacological, Technology-Based Interventions and Supports and Educational interventions. Overall, the number of publications in all subcategories has been increasing since 1999-2000, with a steeper rise beginning in 2005 to 2006. Publications in this figure include both primary and secondary research. See Figure A-30 in Appendix I for publication output by primary research only.
Treatments and Interventions research is one of the highest priority areas for people with autism and their families, as the development of effective treatments and interventions has the potential to reduce disability and significantly enhance quality of life. A wide variety of autism treatment and intervention approaches exist that are designed to reduce disabling symptoms and increase functional skills and abilities, and there is a growing body of research to support the use of particular treatment and intervention approaches. Even so, there is pressing need for a stronger evidence-base across the range of intervention options that are actively used in the home and community. Moreover, researchers are exploring new ways to enhance language skills, communication, and social abilities in people with autism, as well as address the host of medical issues, such as seizures, sleep disorders, and gastrointestinal difficulties, that commonly co-occur with the core features of ASD.
Numerous types of treatment and intervention approaches appearing in the research literature were identified and compiled into one of seven general subcategories that fall under the Treatments and Interventions umbrella:
- Behavioral: Behavioral intervention research involves a wide array of behavioral therapy and training methods, including applied behavior analysis (ABA), cognitive-behavioral therapy, discrete trial training, Early Start Denver Model, imitation training, joint attention training, Lovaas method, pivotal response training, sibling-mediated interventions, and social skills training.
- Complementary, Dietary, and Alternative: Some examples in this group include research on acupressure, acupuncture, antioxidants, cholesterol supplementation, nutritional supplements (e.g., vitamins and minerals), probiotics, and special diets (e.g., gluten-free, casein-free).
- Educational: Nearly all ASD research conducted in the classroom falls under this subcategory, including curricula, education methods and best practices, inclusive education programs, math and reading training, positive behavioral supports, special education programs, and other behavioral interventions developed for and tested in educational settings.
- Medical/Pharmacologic: This subcategory includes clinical research on drugs (e.g., antidepressants, anticonvulsants, antipsychotics, anxiolytics, hormones, and stimulants) to treat autism and its co-occurring conditions, as well as clinical interventions such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).
- Model Systems/Therapeutic Targets: Research in this subcategory includes the development of animal models that mimic behaviors of ASD, and using animal and cellular models to identify therapeutic targets or test new drug treatments.
- Occupational, Physical, and Sensory-Based Therapies: Therapies in this subcategory encompass art therapy, motor training (including fine motor skills such as handwriting as well as gross motor training involving balance and posture), music therapy, occupational therapy, pet (animal) therapy, physical activity plans and exercise therapy (bike riding, swimming), physical therapy, sensory integration, therapeutic horseback riding, training in self-care and daily living skills, and vocational rehabilitation.
- Technology-Based Interventions and Supports: Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), computer applications and software, picture exchange communication systems (PECS), social robots, teleconferencing, video modeling, virtual reality (including virtual and 3D environments to mimic social situations), and wearable sensors are all examples of the types of technology in this subcategory of publications.
Publications, which include both primary and secondary research, related to Behavioral interventions comprised the largest share of ASD research in 2010 (26%), followed by articles on Medical/Pharmacological treatments (18%) and Technology-Based Interventions and Supports (18%). In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the two research categories of Behavioral and Medical/Pharmacologic interventions had approximately equivalent publication counts; however, Behavioral intervention research publications experienced a sharp increase around 1999.
Along with the general growth in the autism research field that was catalyzed by many factors, some of which are discussed in Chapter One of this report, many specific advances and events may have contributed additionally to the rapid growth of publications on Behavioral interventions during the time frame studied. For example, in 1987, a pivotal publication authored by Ivar Lovaas and colleagues helped establish the Lovaas approach/early intensive behavioral intervention as one of the most used and most effective forms of Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) in the treatment of children with autism.16 In 1999, a key follow-up study by Tristram Smith and colleagues confirmed favorable treatment outcomes and spurred additional research on early intensive behavioral intervention.17 Also notable, one of the first general ABA treatment manuals was published in 1996, "Behavioral Intervention for Young Children with Autism: A Manual for Parents and Professionals," and soon after in 1998, the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB), a certification body for practitioners of ABA, was established.18
In the last few years, the steepest increase in publication activity among all the research categories has occurred within Technology-Based Interventions and Supports. With continuing advances in technology driving this category, this trend will likely continue. The four research areas with the smallest proportion of publications in 2010 – research in Educational settings (12%), Model Systems/Therapeutic Targets (10%), Occupational, Physical, and Sensory-Based (8%) and Complementary, Dietary, and Alternative (8%) – all started to demonstrate appreciable growth around 2005, more recently than the larger subcategories. These all appear to be emerging areas of research that may continue to exhibit strong growth in the coming years. Similar publication output trends were observed when the analysis was restricted to primary research articles only. See Figure A-30 in Appendix I for more details.
All material appearing in this report is in the public domain and may be reproduced, copied, or used in presentations and publications. A suggested citation follows.
Office of Autism Research Coordination (OARC), National Institute of Mental Health and Thomson Reuters, Inc. on behalf of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC). IACC/OARC Autism Spectrum Disorder Research Publications Analysis Report: The Global Landscape of Autism Research. July 2012. Retrieved from the Department of Health and Human Services Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee website: http://iacc.hhs.gov/publications-analysis/july2012/index.shtml