Effect of COVID-19 on genomics publications in 2020

COVID-19 was and remains a major crisis in many countries, disrupting general life as well as scientific research. But how has it impacted scientific output in genomics?

To evaluate this I investigated the number of papers published in PubMed Central (PMC) in the period from 2016 through 2020. I used total number of papers as well as those matching the genomics search term with the approach below:

(genom*[Abstract]) AND ("2020"[Publication Date] : "2020"[Publication Date]) 

<Note: the number of papers is only a lagging proxy measure of aggregate activity in a field, it does not relate to scientific quality>

Here are the number of papers and genomics papers published annually over this period.

What you can see is that genomics experienced a major fall in number of papers appearing in PMC in 2020 while total papers did not.

Indeed 2020 was the only year since 2000 that the number of published genomics papers has actually gone down compared to the previous year

There are a lot of ways to predict what amount of output was lost in the genomics field in 2020. We might have expected growth something like the mean year-on-year growth over the past 5 years (7.5%) meaning we should have expected the number of papers to be ~30550. But instead it was -3.6% lower than the year before. This would suggest that the pandemic (and maybe other factors too like funding) have resulted in drop of 11% of scientific output in the field of genomics. 

On the other hand, growth in PMC in 2020 was on par with previous years.

Yes, there are still a few 2020 papers yet to be included in the PMC database but I expect it's only a few hundred and won't impact these findings.

Clearly the pandemic has impacted different fields of study with varying severity, and genomics has taken a big hit. It would be interesting to contrast genomics to other fields like immunology. Looking at smaller timescles would also be interesting.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.


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