Bob Dylan is a source of inspiration for many medical scientists, suggests a new study that found the number of articles citing the popular American singer in biomedical literature has increased exponentially since 1990.
Scientists at the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden studied how the lyrics of Dylan are cited in the titles of published biomedical papers.
A search of all his song and album titles was conducted in May this year. A selection of the most popular Dylan songs were also searched to find modified titles.
In all, 213 of 727 references were classified as unequivocally citing Dylan and were included in the subsequent analysis.
According to the search, the first Dylan-citing article appeared in 1970 in the Journal of Practical Nursing, eight years after his debut album was released.
Interestingly, the researchers note that, after a handful of citations during Dylan’s heyday in the first half of the 1970s, very few articles in the biomedical sciences cited him until 1990.
However, since then, the number of articles has increased exponentially.
The two most cited Dylan songs are The Times They Are A-Changin’ (135 articles) and Blowin’ In The Wind (36 articles).
The search also showed the use of other popular titles such as All Along The Watchtower, Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door, and Like A Rolling Stone.
Some journals have a greater preponderance of Dylan-citing research articles than others; for instance, no less than six articles citing Dylan songs were found in the journal Nature.
However, citing Dylan in a research paper does not appear to generate more attention in the research community, the researchers said.
Recent evidence suggests that Dylan has a great deal of respect for the medical profession. Based on the present survey, the researchers suggest that the medical profession shows the same respect for Dylan.
They point to several possible explanations but conclude, “it is clear that Dylan’s rich song catalogue has provided a source of inspiration for medical scientists.”
The study was published in the journal BMJ.