Over 87,000 research papers published on Covid-19 by October 2020: Analysis

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on February 25, 2021

For the analysis, the researchers looked for coronavirus-related articles in several scientific databases

The coronavirus pandemic has invigorated researchers and scholars around the world as they try to wrap their minds around the virulent virus. A new analysis showed that more than 87,000 papers have been published on coronavirus between the inception of the pandemic and October 2020.

“It is an astonishing number of publications - it may be unprecedented in the history of science,” said Caroline Wagner, co-author of the study and associate professor in the John Glenn College of Public Affairs at The Ohio State University.

She added: “Nearly all of the scientific community around the world turned its attention to this one issue.”

Wagner conducted the analysis with Xiaojing Cai from Zhejiang University in China and Caroline Fry of the University of Hawai’i. The study was published online in the journal Scientometrics.

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For the analysis, the researchers looked for coronavirus-related articles in several scientific databases. They found that 4,875 articles were produced on the issue between January and mid-April of 2020. That rose to 44,013 by mid-July and 87,515 by the start of October.

Wagner compared the research on coronavirus to the attention given to nanoscale science, which was one of the hottest topics in science during the 1990s.

It took more than 19 years to go from 4,000 to 90,000 scientific articles on that topic. Coronavirus research reached that level in about five months,” she said.

The new analysis further revealed that China’s contributions declined significantly after infection rates in the country fell. From January 1 to April 8, Chinese scientists were involved in 47 per cent of all worldwide publications on coronavirus. That dropped to only 16 per cent from July 13 to October 5.

Similar results were found in other countries when infection levels dropped among their populations.

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Wagner said: “That surprised us a bit. At the beginning of the pandemic, governments flooded scientists with funding for Covid-19 research, probably because they wanted to look like they were responding. It may be that when the threat went down, so did the funding.”

In China, the work was also slowed by a government requirement that officials approve all articles related to Covid-19, Wagner said.

Meanwhile, scientists in the United States were involved in 23 per cent of all worldwide coronavirus studies at the beginning of the pandemic and about 33 per cent from July to October, the last period covered in this study.

Published on February 25, 2021

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