More text-mining. Popularity contest: Drosophila Melanogaster vs. C. elegans


While waiting on several word-counting scripts to finish counting, I picked up my cancerCounter script to count something else. This time, I wanted to see what organism was more popular and more frequently mentioned in biomedical studies: the ever-present Drosophila Melanogaster, aka common fruit fly, or the aptly named Caenorhabditis elegans (one cannot deny that the 1nm-long worm has quite the elegant wiggle). Two model organisms in biomedical research.

Both have a lot going for themselves:
– Elegans was the first organism to ever have its entire genome sequenced (go worm!)
– The worm reproduces and mutates quickly and easily

The fruit fly on the other hand is quite the suitable lab-rat as well:
– Drosophila breeds easily
– Does not need much space nor care
– Has to pay for invading my kitchen each year during summer

I started counting the occurrence of ‘drosophila melanogaster’ or ‘d. melanogaster’ AND ‘caenorhabditis elegans’ or ‘c. elegans’ in the lowercased article-body of my 99.000-and-something BioMedCentral articles-corpus, and took a looksy. First comes the total amount of articles published a year, with the amount of articles mentioning the fruit fly/worm:

As we can see, worryingly, scientists hardly spend enough time performing research with worms and fruit flies. Since 2003, they do consistently play more with the worms than with fruit flies, though. But it’s hard to see, let’s ditch the total articles:

When we subtract the drosophila articles from the elegans articles, we can see how much the worm has on the fruit fly. The red bars represents by how many articles Elegans wins over Drosophila, and blue bars indicate with how many articles Drosophila wins over Elegans.

But absolute numbers is not what we’re looking for. As we have seen in the first graph, the frequency of articles is far from evenly distributed. So let’s see what the ratio is, of the difference between both organisms:

This evens out some of the bigger differences in the previous graph; Drosophila had ‘only’ a +5 win over Elegans in 2001, but relatively this is a bigger victory than Elegans’ +34 win in 2006, and even its +79 victory in 2009.

Conclusion: Elegans wins.