In a rational world, scientific effort would reflect society's needs. We tested this hypothesis using the area of infectious diseases, where the research response to emerging threats has obvious potential to save lives through informing interventions such as vaccination and prevention policies. Pathogens continue to evolve, emerge and re-emerge and infectious diseases that were once common become less so or their global distribution changes. A question remains as to whether scientific endeavours can adapt. Here, we identified papers on infectious diseases published in the four highest ranking, health-related journals over the 118 years from 1900. Focussing on outbreak-related and burden of disease-related metrics over the two time periods, 1990 to 2017 and 1900 to 2017, our analyses suggest that there is little underrepresentation of important infectious diseases among top ranked journals. Encouragingly our results suggest the scientific process is largely self-correcting.
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