We reviewed the literature concerning fish aggregation devices (FADs) to determine areas of relative research deficiency. Using specific searches of the Aquatic Sciences and Fisheries Abstracts (ASFA) database from 1978 to December 2003 and a classical search of the pre-1978 literature, we collected 407 references on FADs. Publications before 1980 were predominantly peer-reviewed, although non-peer reviewed literature has dominated since 1980, due to the numerous technical reports produced as FADs became more widely used in artisinal and large-scale industrial fisheries in the 1980s. Most studies of the ecology of FAD-associated fish were descriptive, with few mensurative experimental studies and even fewer manipulative experimental studies that tested specific hypotheses, due to inherent difficulties in working in the open ocean on objects that are temporary in space and time. Research on the ecology of FAD-associated fish has focused on moored FADs, despite the major FAD-based fisheries being around drifting FADs. Publications presenting information on moored FADs outnumbered papers on drifting FADs by a ratio of 3.5:1. We recommend that greater emphasis be placed by fisheries scientists and funding agencies on researching drifting FADs to provide better information for management of large-scale FAD-based industrial fisheries. Future research should focus on determining the patterns of use of drifting FADs by pelagic species, the underlying sensory processes of attraction and the ecological consequences for individual fish stocks and the wider pelagic ecosystem of the use of FADs as fisheries enhancement tools.