Text Mining Bioethics Journals

Paul Knoepfler put up a really interesting post today on text mining the titles of articles in Cell Stem Cell and Stem Cells. The results are striking, as he notes – and it looked like a fun way to procrastinate for a couple of hours. So I decided to do the same with three bioethics journals: the American Journal of Bioethics, Bioethics, and Journal of Medical Ethics. I mostly chose these because they were the first three to come to mind, and not out of anything more scientifically rigorous. The results are interesting:

American Journal of Bioethics, January – November 2012; click to embiggen

Bioethics, January – September 2012; click to embiggen

Journal of Medical Ethics, January – November 2012; click to embiggen


Note that unlike Paul, I didn’t pull defining words like bioethics, ethics, or ethical out of my word clouds. Why? Well, I was going to until I ran the first, which was AJOB, and saw that “bioethics” didn’t actually come up in any large way. That caught my attention, and I decided to leave the results as is, rather than to remove words based on what would have been, in this case, inaccurate assumption.

It’s also worth noting that AJOB has a different format, relying on Target Articles and then Open Peer Commentaries. In practice, this means that words like “nudge” – which was used in a Target Article – will be inflated in use because of the repetition in the commentaries. This is definitely a reflection of the journal, and can make it a bit more difficult to abstract any conclusions about what is published where. Still, overall, this is a somewhat interesting exercise in the varying focus of different bioethics journals (a topic that I was actually discussing with people last week).

3 thoughts on “Text Mining Bioethics Journals

  1. Pingback: BMJ Group blogs: Journal of Medical Ethics blog » Blog Archive » Kelly Hills, Data Miner

  2. Dear Kelly:

    May I have your permission to reproduce your “text mine” of AJOB — first image above–in my syllabus (with full credit of course) for an undergraduate course in Bioethics at Univ Southern California.

    I am a graduate of the AMBI master’s program and I think I met you at one of the ASBH meetings when you were working at AMBI during your grad school time.

    Your word cloud is very impressive and expresses what I want a bunch of healthcare minors students to understand about the pluralistic character of bioethics.

    thank you very much for your consideration.

    Cheryl Lew

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