Scientific publications and COVID-19 “research pivots” during the pandemic: An initial bibliometric analysis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


An examination is presented of scientific research publication trends during the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in 2020. After reviewing the timing of the emergence of the pandemic in 2020 and the growth of governmental responses, available secondary and sources are used to highlight impacts of COVID-19 on scientific research. A bibliometric analysis is then undertaken to analyze developments in COVID-19 related scientific publications through to October of 2020 by broad trends, fields, countries, and organizations. Two publication data sources are used: PubMed and the Web of Science.

While there has been a massive absolute increase in PubMed and Web of Science papers directly focused on COVID-19 topics, especially in medical, biological science, and public health fields, this is still a relatively small proportion of publication outputs across all fields of science. Using Web of Science publication data, the paper examines the extent to which researchers across all fields of science have pivoted their research outputs to focus on topics related to COVID-19. A COVID-19 research pivot is defined as the extent to which the proportion of output in a particular research field has shifted to a focus on COVID-19 topics in 2020 (to date) compared with 2019. Significant variations are found by specific fields (identified by Web of Science Subject Categories). In a top quintile of fields, not only in medical specialties, biomedical sciences, and public health but also in subjects in social sciences and arts and humanities, there are relatively high to medium research pivots. In lower quintiles, including other subjects in science, social science, and arts and humanities, low to zero COVID-19 research pivoting is identified.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 7 Dec 2020


  • COVID-19
  • Scientific
  • Publications
  • Bibliometrics


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