Fig. 1 demonstrates the rapid increase of DEA-related articles by year. It should be noted that there was “exponential” growth in the number of journal articles since the seminal work of CCR in 1978.
In recent four decades (1978–2016), there are totally 10,300 DEA-related articles in the literature. In particular, in the last three years (2014, 2015 and 2016), the numbers of journal articles reached to just about 1000 published works in each year. In general, we can roughly classify the development status of DEA-related articles into three stages : (1) 1978–1994: in this stage the growth of DEA-related articles is relatively slow in the sense of the article numbers ; (2) 1995–2003: in the second stage the growth of DEA-related articles is relatively stable and the average number of published articles is about 134 per year ; (3) 2004-present: in the third stage the number of DEA-related articles show the “exponential” growth and the average number reaches about 680 per year.The latest trend of publications show about 1000 papers in each year.