Digital Science, a technology company serving emergent needs across the research sector, has released a report highlighting the global research landscape trends and cultural changes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report ‘How COVID-19 is Changing Research Culture’ analyses publication trends, regional focal points of research, collaboration patterns, and top institutional producers of research in COVID-19.
According to the report, as of June 1, 2020, there have been upwards of 42,700 scholarly articles on COVID-19 published, 3,100 clinical trials, 420 datasets, 270 patents, 750 policy documents, and 150 grants. Preprints have rapidly established as a mainstream research output and a key part of COVID-19 research efforts. They started at relatively low levels in early January 2020 and accounted for around one quarter of research output by the beginning of May 2020. More than 8,300 organisations have been involved in supporting COVID-19 research, with over 71,800 individual researchers identified as working on COVID-19 research.
The report further notes that the highest intensity of research into COVID-19 began in China and gradually migrated west mirroring the movement of the virus itself. While the US and EU have both now published more than China in journals such as The Lancet, New England Journal of Medicine and JAMA, China continues to benefit from an early mover advantage and continues to enjoy the lionshare of the citations. While research in the field is clearly moving quickly, it currently remains anchored to China’s early publications.
A density map of global COVID-19 paper production shows there are three to four major centres of research: an extended area in China composed of several cities—Wuhan, where the virus is alleged to have started, Beijing and Shanghai; Europe, specifically Italy and the UK, two of the harder hit countries; the US’s east coast research corridor including Boston and New York; and finally, a lighter focus from the Californian institutions on the West coast. The top producing institution of COVID-19 research (since the beginning of 2020) is in China, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, followed by Harvard University and the University of Oxford.
While the proportion of internationally co-authored work is steady, the vast majority of research on COVID has been unusually authored within countries. At the time of writing, 156 grants totalling at least 20.8m USD have been awarded to COVID-themed researchers in public institutions. Much of the clinical trial initiation activity in January and February is sponsored by China and this then begins to fall off in March, April and May. A similar wave has been noticed for Europe and the US, but shifted back by two months, beginning in March.
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