The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting containment measures created an unprecedented ‘stress test’ for science. The emergence of a novel coronavirus, with life-threatening consequences for many populations globally, meant that the results of new scientific research and potential solutions for containing and treating the pandemic were urgently needed.
It is not often that you hear the pandemic had a positive side. Still, it provided the perfect example of how science could be rapidly and openly shared to encourage collaboration and answers to pressing international problems. Preprints and open peer review significantly altered the scientific publishing landscape. The AHRECS team believes these were changes for the better. Time will tell whether matters snap back, but we believe the changes are worth preserving. This University World News piece takes a look at the issues.
The pandemic prompted an avalanche of new papers, with more than 530,000 released either by journals or as preprints, according to the Dimensions bibliometric database. It fed the largest one-year increase in all scholarly articles and the largest ever annual total.
As the demand for new findings about the virus accelerated, the process of carrying out scientific research was in many cases disrupted by national lockdowns and remote working measures.
Against this backdrop, there was an increased need for scientific collaboration across geographic boundaries and for an accelerated sharing of research findings among scientists and with policy-makers and other stakeholders in a remarkably wide range of disciplines, not just healthcare sectors.
The combined need for rapid international sharing of results and for many different actors to be able to access those results highlighted the limitations of traditional scholarly publishing and gave new impetus to the development and uptake of tools for open science.