How the Covid-19 pandemic upset scientific publishing

Explosion of articles posted on pre-publication platforms such as MedRxiv, Research Square or BioRxiv. Publication of studies in record time in the usual scientific journals, at the risk of retraction a few weeks later, including in journals considered to be the most prestigious such as the New England Journal of Medicine or The Lancet …

From February 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic had a considerable impact on the research of scientists and their production of articles. In what proportions, and with what consequences for publications in other fields of medicine? This was explored by a mainly French team, under the direction of Alexandre Loupy (director of the Center for Translational Research for Organ Transplantation in Paris, Inserm), by analyzing the ten most highly rated medical journals and of infectious diseases, over the years 2019 and 2020.

Their work, published online on November 22 in the journal BMC Medical Research Methodology, conclude that the spectacular growth in the number of scientific articles devoted to Covid has been accompanied by an 18% drop in publications on other subjects. These authors also highlight several particularities of “Covid publications”. The “original” articles (that is, studies presenting new data, and which are not editorials or points of view) are in a much lower proportion (47.9%) than in the relative articles. to non-Covid subjects (71.3%). The number of signatories per publication is significantly higher, especially with regard to case studies: nine authors on average in Covid “case reports”, against four for other topics.

The production of articles devoted to the pandemic increased dramatically between February and April 2020 in general medical journals

To study the impact of the pandemic on scientific publishing, Dr. Marc Raynaud, epidemiologist and first author of the study, and his colleagues identified the articles published between January 1, 2019 and January 1, 2021 in the top 10 English-speaking medical and infectious diseases journals: New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), Lancet, Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Nature Medicine, British Medical Journal (BMJ), Annals of Internal Medicine, Lancet Global Health, Lancet Public Health, Lancet Infectious Diseases and Clinical Infectious Diseases.

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