(blog) fulgurafrango
30 July 2012


In a rare bright spot for the country’s global academic standing, the University of the Philippines (UP) ranked 18th among institutions in non-OECD countries in terms of the significance of its research in health economics, based on a recent global analysis of forty years of research done in the field.

The March 2012 issue of the Journal of Health Economics carries a piece (“Four decades of health economics through a bibliometric lens”) by Adam Wagstaff and Anthony J. Culyer (hereafter W&C [2012]), which assesses trends in the growing literature of health economics. Their database included 33,000 publications in EconLit classified under health economics. (The journal itself, published by Elsevier, is ranked first in the field.)

It is significant that UP is the only national institution from a developing Southeast Asian country to merit inclusion in the roster. (The International Rice Research Institute was also ascribed to the Philippines although it is an international organization.) The only other institutions from Southeast Asia making the list were from developed-country Singapore. Other Asian institutions were from Taiwan, China, India, and Pakistan.

W&C sought to capture the significance and reach of an institution’s research efforts using several standard measures, including the so-called “h-index” first proposed by Hirsch [2005], a stringent criterion in which the number h refers to both the number of articles and the minimum frequency that these articles were cited. An h-score for a research portfolio means there are h articles in it that are cited at least h times (Box 1).The h-index of UP for the period studied was 4, which means that among the articles written by UP authors (a total of 11 recorded), four in particular were each cited at least four times during  the period.

Harvard University with h = 87 was the top research institution in health economics worldwide [W&C 2012: 426,Table 6], an unsurprising result, since it is also home to one of the world’s best and oldest economics departments. Among non-OECD countries, on the other hand, the top institution [W&C 2012: 432, Table 10] was National Taiwan University (h = 12), while the National University of Singapore had h = 7. UP’s h-index of 4 put it at par with other universities from Taiwan (Tsinghua U and Cheng Chi National U), Singapore (Nanyang), and India (Indian Institute of Management), all of which were also ranked 18th.

As a country, the Philippines was 25th in the global ranking, with an h-index of 9 [W&C 2012: 431, Table 9].  This score represents somewhat less than a “national” effort, however, since it primarily reflects work done at the International Rice Research Institute. The UP performance was reflected nonetheless in the country’s publication and citations count.

Other metrics actually give UP a higher rank than the h-index [W&C 2012: 432, Table 10]. Among the same 25 non-OECD institutions with the highest h-index, UP ranked 16th in terms of total number of publications and 13th in terms of total citations. Using an index (see Box 2)  proposed by the authors that takes into account both total citations and number of publications UP ranks 14th. In the period included for review, the study credited UP with 11 publications in health economics, with a total of 107 citations.

UP’s performance in health economics is largely the result of collaborative work done between the scholars from the School of Economics (UP-Diliman), the College of Medicine (UP-Manila), and the University of California-San Francisco, especially work conducted under a grant from the (U.S.) National Institutes of Health. School of Economics faculty members actively involved  in the health economics programme include Orville Solon, Stella Alabastro-Quimbo, Joseph Capuno, and Aleli dela Paz-Kraft. (A list of publications by UPSE faculty, including those in health economics, can be found here and here.)

W&C, it should be noted, reported only papers up to 2009. Extending the period yields a total of 19 articles indexed in the Web of Science (formerly ISI) that the programme has produced over the period 2008-2011 alone. The recent vintage of many of these articles also augurs well for a higher h-index in the near future as the results are read and recognised more generally.

In an earlier review of economics research in the Philippines [de Dios 2012], I referred to the UPSE’s work in health economics as “a research programme in the true sense” that “combines high policy-relevance and academic impact”. The bibliometric analysis by W&C vindicates this assessment by placing the programme’s research achievements in a global frame.

For faculties and other institutions seeking to improve their publications record, the health economics programme can and should be held up as a successful model of research based on a corps of scholars (not lone wolves) working continuously (not sporadically) on a common theme or area (not over diffuse and disjointed topics) and collaborating closely with colleagues from reputable foreign institutions (and not idiosyncratically defining their own interests).

The example of  the UPSE health economics programme is especially relevant, since a weak research and publications record has been the single most important reason that the country’s universities lag behind their global counterparts.





de Dios, E. [2012] “Economic research in the Philippines: a brief survey” in: V. Miralao and J. Agbisit, eds. Philippine social sciences: capacities, directions, and challenges: Philippine social science report. Quezon City: Philippine Social Science Council. 2012: 26-46.

Hirsch, J.E. [2005] “An index to quantify an individual’s scientific research output”, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 102: 16569. Available from: http://www.pnas.org/content/102/46/16569.full

Wagstaff, A. and A. Culyer (W&C) [2012] “Four decades of health economics through a bibliometric lens”, Journal of Health Economics 31: 406-439. Available from: