Publishing during a pandemic

Did COVID-19 affect the research published in academic journals? 

This blog series shares highlights from our new report: Reading and Publishing during a pandemic. In this post, discover publishing trends we saw during 2020 and 2021, and download your free copy of the report today for insights into the priorities of and problems faced by your library users. 

Did COVID-19 affect the research published in academic journals? 

In our previous post, we asked whether the disruptions caused by COVID-19 impacted journal readership. Some answers to that question can be found in our report, Reading and publishing during a pandemic. The report also reveals fascinating insights into what researchers were publishing over the last two years. 

Like many publishers, we saw a rise in submissions during the pandemic. Was the spread of COVID-19 directly providing new material, as researchers rushed to understand how the virus spread and how it could be treated and prevented? Or was the increase in submissions a case of researchers in all fields – many of which found themselves working outside of their labs and lecture halls – having more time to write up and submit their most recent findings? 

We’ve mined the data from our publishing platform, Taylor & Francis Online, to find out: 

  • How much was COVID-19 research responsible for the growth in submissions? 
  • To what extent did researchers beyond medical fields tackle COVID-19 topics? 
  • Was medical research on COVID-19 cited faster than COVID research in other fields? 

5 publishing trends

The data reveals:  

  • There was a noticeable increase in submissions on topics unrelated to the pandemic. 
  • Some subjects with the highest growth in submissions had few or no COVID-related articles. 
  • While Immunology was the subject with by far the highest percentage of COVID articles in 2020, this was overtaken in 2021 by Behavioral Medicine and Health Psychology. 
  • Articles on COVID-related themes covered a wide range of subjects – Hospitality & Tourism, and Communication Studies were among the ten subjects with the highest percentage of COVID-19 submissions in 2021. 
  • Some of the most-cited COVID-19 articles were not in Medicine. Tourism, Finance, Politics, and Molecular Biology all had highly-cited COVID articles. 
Reading and publishing in the pandemic banner

Spotlight on growth in submissions by subject

To find out to what extent COVID-related articles fuelled the growth in submissions, we looked at year-on-year excess growth in the second quarter of 2020. The table below shows the broad subject categories that saw the most significant growth in submissions, along with the percentage of submissions during the period on COVID themes. 

Table showing the top 10 subject areas: excess growth

Researchers working in areas that could help with the response to COVID-19 certainly rose to the challenge. We understood how the virus worked and had vaccines and cures much faster than many expected. But these figures also demonstrate vital work of researchers continued in so many other fields of study. More than ever, researchers wanted to share their discoveries with their peers, to help foster human progress.  

Find out more in the report, including what research was being discussed, publishing trends, and search habits