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Trends and themes in African ornithology

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Ornithology in Africa has a long history. I review trends in the ornithological literature since 1990 within the context of the 14th Pan-African Ornithological Congress. Using full text searches of papers on PubMed® and abstracts from main ornithological journals I found that most papers referencing African bird species are focused on medical-related research questions. Restricting the literature search to journals African ornithologists are most likely to publish in, I found 2 279 relevant papers. These describe work on 29% of African bird species from 82% of African bird families, in all but two African countries. Overall output has increased slightly over time, with more papers tackling more research topics. Most popular research topics were demography, conservation and climate, with disease ecology, physiology and ecological processes the least researched topics. I found that while many authors with African affiliations publish papers, outside of South Africa very few African-based authors reliably publish in the international research literature, perhaps indicating difficulties in establishing a productive research career in much of Africa. I conclude with a call to overseas ornithologists working in Africa and to organisations funding research in Africa to work together to build capacity outside of the few established research centres.
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Keywords: birds; literature search; quantitative review; research capacity building; research themes

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Biology, University of York, York, YO10 5DD, UK

Publication date: April 3, 2018

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