The video below presents the number of scientific articles published per year on several topics of scientific research from 1947 to 2017. The graphic shows those areas that were object of the most intense research efforts, and reveals how the focus of scientific research has changed during this interval of time. For example, in 1947 peptic ulcer, pulmonary tuberculosis, mental disorders, cancer, malaria, and polio were the top 6 areas of research, whereas by 2017 breast cancer, obesity, lung cancer, HIV infections, type 2 diabetes, and heart failure were the top areas of research.
The changes that take place overtime are complex and are dependent on many factors ranging from changes in public policy to the prevalence of some medical conditions. In some of these areas such as polio or tuberculosis the intensity of research decreased as successful treatments were developed. Research in other areas increased as a result of the emergence of some diseases. For example, research on Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) broke into the top 15 areas of most intense research in 1985 and shot to the top within 3 years only to fade below number 15 by 1999. Obesity broke into the top 15 areas in 1999 and made its way to the number 2 position by 2013.
The graph also shows that in 1947 the total number of scientific articles in the top 15 areas was less than 5,000, whereas by 2017 the very top area of research alone, breast cancer, accumulated 10,548 articles per year. This shows how scientific research has exploded in the past 70 decades.