Armed conflict may influence the size and scope of research in Arab countries. We aimed to assess the impact of the 2011 Syrian conflict on health articles about Syria published in indexed journals.
We conducted a scoping review on Syrian health-related articles using seven electronic databases. We included clinical, biomedical, public health, or health system topics published between 1991 and 2017. We excluded animal studies and studies conducted on Syrian refugees. We used descriptive and social network analyses to assess the differences in rates, types, topics of articles, and authorship before and after 2011, the start of the Syrian conflict.
Of 1138 articles, 826 (72.6%) were published after 2011. Articles published after 2011 were less likely to be primary research; had a greater proportion reporting on mental health (4.6% vs. 10.0%), accidents and injuries (2.3% vs. 18.8%), and conflict and health (1.7% vs. 7.8%) (all
p< 0.05); and a lower proportion reporting on child and maternal health (8.1 to 3.6%, p= 0.019). The proportion of research articles reporting no funding increased from 1.1 to 14.6% ( p< 0.01). While international collaborations increased over time, the number of articles with no authors affiliated to Syrian institutions overtook those with at least one author affiliation to a Syrian institution for the first time in 2015. Conclusion
To our knowledge, this is the first study to examine the impact of armed conflict on health scholarship in Syria. The Syrian conflict was associated with a change in the rates, types, and topics of the health-related articles, and authors’ affiliations. Our findings have implications for the prioritization of research funding, development of inclusive research collaborations, and promoting the ethics of conducting research in complex humanitarian settings.