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One-year in: COVID-19 research at the international level in CORD-19 data

Journal Title Plos One
Published Date May 25, 2022
Research Type


The appearance of a novel coronavirus in late 2019 radically changed the community of researchers working on coronaviruses since the 2002 SARS epidemic. In 2020, coronavirus-related publications grew by 20 times over the previous two years, with 130,000 more researchers publishing on related topics. The United States, the United Kingdom and China led dozens of nations working on coronavirus prior to the pandemic, but leadership consolidated among these three nations in 2020, which collectively accounted for 50% of all papers, garnering well more than 60% of citations. China took an early lead on COVID-19 research, but dropped rapidly in production and international participation through the year. Europe showed an opposite pattern, beginning slowly in publications but growing in contributions during the year. The share of internationally collaborative publications dropped from pre-pandemic rates; single-authored publications grew. For all nations, including China, the number of publications about COVID track closely with the outbreak of COVID-19 cases. Lower-income nations participate very little in COVID-19 research in 2020. Topic maps of internationally collaborative work show the rise of patient care and public health clusters—two topics that were largely absent from coronavirus research in the two years prior to 2020. Findings are consistent with global science as a self-organizing system operating on a reputation-based dynamic.

Wagner CS, Cai X, Zhang Y, Fry CV (2022) One-year in: COVID-19 research at the international level in CORD-19 data. PLoS ONE 17(5): e0261624.