Background: A substantial growth has been reported in Iran's number of clinical, biomedical, and public health research publications over the last 30 years. It is of interest to investigate whether this quantitative growth has also led to a larger number of papers with a high citation impact; to explore where the capacity for performing research lies; and which fields/institutions are lagging behind.
Methods: This was a bibliometric study. Web of Science Core Collection and its different tools were used for retrieving and analysing the publications. Information about the journals was found on Journal Citation Reports®. Different types of collaborations across the highly-cited papers was investigated based on the affiliations, the characteristics of the language of the authors' names, and the authors' study and work backgrounds.
Results: Iran's number of clinical, biomedical, and public health research publications has substantially increased since 2000, a surge was seen in 2007, and the figure reached a peak in 2011. 11% of the publications were in Pharmacology Pharmacy; and the majority originated in Tehran University of Medical Sciences. Six of the 10 journals that had published the most were Iranian journals. H-index of publications had also increased over time (almost doubled between 2000 and 2010). 30.9% of the most-cited publications had only relied on Iranian resources (including 48 publications); had been published in journals with impact factors ranging between 0.4 and 8.3; and the majority were original basic sciences research.
Conclusions: In Iran, a great capacity for research lies in clinical, biomedical, and public health fields which can be strengthened with further investment. It is important to use this capacity in a way that would align with the national population health needs. It is also essential to consider the limitations of only relying on bibliometric tools for assessing health research activities. Finally, the Iranian science policy-makers are encouraged to (i) support the researchers and institutions that have proved research capacity; (ii) direct further resources towards research areas and/or institutions that are lagging behind; (iii) facilitate further international collaboration with the academics and/or institutions that have shown the capacity for conducting successful research projects with Iran.