Open Academic Book Publishing during COVID-19 Pandemic: A View on Romanian University Presses

Authors : Mariana Cernicova-Buca, Katalin Luzan

In the context of the 2020 public health crisis that discourages exchanges of physical objects in society, university-led publishing needed to rethink its operations. Worldwide the opening of quality scholarly content proved to be a solution.

University presses reacted rapidly and offered books according to the open access model. The present research aimed to map the editorial landscape of Romanian university presses, to identify the main features displayed online by the university presses parented by public universities and to highlight the readiness of these players to further open access academic books, especially in the time of the COVID-19 crisis.

The quantitative approach investigated the availability of e-books in the university presses’ portfolios, including the alignment to the open access scholarship movement, the use of social media accounts to promote the presses and the response of the presses to the challenges of the health crisis.

Out of the 46 active university presses, only six had open book titles in their portfolios and only one genuinely responded actively to the challenges posed by the need for electronic formats in 2020. Unless Romanian university presses modernize and restructure their modus operandi, they can prove irrelevant in the post-crisis period.

URL : Open Academic Book Publishing during COVID-19 Pandemic: A View on Romanian University Presses


Characteristics of academic publications, preprints, and registered clinical trials on the COVID-19 pandemic

Authors : Silvia Gianola, Tiago S. Jesus, Silvia Bargeri, Greta Castellini

The COVID-19 pandemic has unleashed a deluge of publications. For this cross-sectional study we compared the amount and reporting characteristics of COVID-19-related academic articles and preprints and the number of ongoing clinical trials and systematic reviews.

To do this, we searched the PubMed database of citations and abstracts for published life science journals by using appropriate combinations of medical subject headings (MeSH terms), and the COVID-19 section of the MedRxiv and BioRxiv archives up to 20 May 2020 (21 weeks).

In addition, we searched, Chinese Clinical Trial Registry, EU Clinical Trials Register, and 15 other trial registers, as well as PROSPERO, the international prospective register of systematic reviews.

The characteristics of each publication were extracted. Regression analyses and Z tests were used to detect publication trends and their relative proportions. A total of 3635 academic publications and 3805 preprints were retrieved. Only 8.6% (n = 329) of the preprints were already published in indexed journals. The number of academic and preprint publications increased significantly over time (p<0.001).

Case reports (6% academic vs 0.9% preprints; p<0.001) and letters (17.4% academic vs 0.5% preprints; p<0.001) accounted for a greater share of academic compared to preprint publications. Differently, randomized controlled trials (0.22% vs 0.63%; p<0.001) and systematic reviews (0.08% vs 5%) made up a greater share of the preprints.

The relative proportion of clinical studies registered at, Chinese Clinical Trial Registry, and EU Clinical Trials Register was 57.9%, 49.5%, and 98.9%, respectively, most of which were still “recruiting”.

PROSPERO listed 962 systematic review protocols. Preprints were slightly more prevalent than academic articles but both were increasing in number.

The void left by the lack of primary studies was filled by an outpour of immediate opinions (i.e., letters to the editor) published in PubMed-indexed journals. Summarizing, preprints have gained traction as a publishing response to the demand for prompt access to empirical, albeit not peer-reviewed, findings during the present pandemic.

URL : Characteristics of academic publications, preprints, and registered clinical trials on the COVID-19 pandemic


Coronavirus mapping in scientific publications: When science advances rapidly and collectively, is access to this knowledge open to society?

Authors : Simone Belli, Rogério Mugnaini, Joan Baltà, Ernest Abadal

The COVID-19 pandemic is creating a global health emergency. Mapping this health emergency in scientific publications demands multiple approaches to obtain a picture as complete as possible. To progress in the knowledge of this pandemic and to control its effects, international collaborations between researchers are essentials, as well as having open and immediate access to scientific publications, what we called “coopetition”.

Our main objectives are to identify the most productive countries in coronavirus publications, to analyse the international scientific collaboration on this topic, and to study the proportion and typology of open accessibility to these publications.

We have analyzed 18,875 articles indexed in Web of Science. We performed the descriptive statistical analysis in order to explore the performance of the more prolific countries and organizations, as well as paying attention to the last 2 years. Registers have been analyzed separately via the VOSviewer software, drawing a network of links among countries and organizations to identify the starred countries and organizations, and the strongest links of the net.

We have explored the capacity of researchers to generate scientific knowledge about a health crisis emergency, and their global capacity to collaborate among them in a global emergency. We consider that science is moving rapidly to find solutions to international health problems but access to this knowledge by society is not so quick due to several limitations (open access policies, corporate interests, etc.).

We have observed that papers from China in the last 3 months (from January 2020 to March 2020) have a strong impact compared with papers published in years before. The United States and China are the major producers of documents of our sample, followed by all European countries, especially the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, and France.

At the same time, the leading role of Saudi Arabia, Canada or South Korea should be noted, with a significant number of documents submitted but very different dynamics of international collaboration.

The proportion of international collaboration is growing in all countries in 2019–2020, which contrasts with the situation of the last two decades. The organizations providing the most documents to the sample are mostly Chinese.

The percentage of open access articles on coronavirus for the period 2001–2020 is 59.2% but if we focus in 2020 the figures increase up to 91.4%, due to the commitment of commercial publishers with the emergency.


Preliminary analysis of COVID-19 academic information patterns: a call for open science in the times of closed borders

Authors : Jan Homolak, Ivan Kodvanj, D. Virag

The Pandemic of COVID-19, an infectious disease caused by SARS-CoV-2 motivated the scientific community to work together in order to gather, organize, process and distribute data on the novel biomedical hazard. Here, we analyzed how the scientific community responded to this challenge by quantifying distribution and availability patterns of the academic information related to COVID-19.

The aim of this study was to assess the quality of the information flow and scientific collaboration, two factors we believe to be critical for finding new solutions for the ongoing pandemic.

The RISmed R package, and a custom Python script were used to fetch metadata on articles indexed in PubMed and published on Rxiv preprint server. Scopus was manually searched and the metadata was exported in BibTex file. Publication rate and publication status, affiliation and author count per article, and submission-to-publication time were analysed in R. Biblioshiny application was used to create a world collaboration map.

Preliminary data suggest that COVID-19 pandemic resulted in generation of a large amount of scientific data, and demonstrates potential problems regarding the information velocity, availability, and scientific collaboration in the early stages of the pandemic. More specifically, the results indicate precarious overload of the standard publication systems, significant problems with data availability and apparent deficient collaboration.

In conclusion, we believe the scientific community could have used the data more efficiently in order to create proper foundations for finding new solutions for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Moreover, we believe we can learn from this on the go and adopt open science principles and a more mindful approach to COVID-19-related data to accelerate the discovery of more efficient solutions. We take this opportunity to invite our colleagues to contribute to this global scientific collaboration by publishing their findings with maximal transparency.


Research methodology and characteristics of journal articles with original data, preprint articles and registered clinical trial protocols about COVID-19

Authors : Mahir Fidahic, Danijela Nujic, Renata Runjic, Marta Civljak, Zvjezdana Lovric Makaric, Livia Puljak


The research community reacted rapidly to the emergence of COVID-19. We aimed to assess characteristics of journal articles, preprint articles, and registered trial protocols about COVID-19 and its causal agent SARS-CoV-2.


We analyzed characteristics of journal articles with original data indexed by March 19, 2020, in World Health Organization (WHO) COVID-19 collection, articles published on preprint servers medRxiv and bioRxiv by April 3, 2010.

Additionally, we assessed characteristics of clinical trials indexed in the WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (WHO ICTRP) by April 7, 2020.


Among the first 2118 articles on COVID-19 published in scholarly journals, 533 (25%) contained original data. The majority was published by authors from China (75%) and funded by Chinese sponsors (75%); a quarter was published in the Chinese language.

Among 312 articles that self-reported study design, the most frequent were retrospective studies (N = 88; 28%) and case reports (N = 86; 28%), analyzing patients’ characteristics (38%). Median Journal Impact Factor of journals where articles were published was 5.099.

Among 1088 analyzed preprint articles, the majority came from authors affiliated in China (51%) and were funded by sources in China (46%). Less than half reported study design; the majority were modeling studies (62%), and analyzed transmission/risk/prevalence (43%).

Of the 927 analyzed registered trials, the majority were interventional (58%). Half were already recruiting participants. The location for the conduct of the trial in the majority was China (N = 522; 63%).

The median number of planned participants was 140 (range: 1 to 15,000,000). Registered intervention trials used highly heterogeneous primary outcomes and tested highly heterogeneous interventions; the most frequently studied interventions were hydroxychloroquine (N = 39; 7.2%) and chloroquine (N = 16; 3%).


Early articles on COVID-19 were predominantly retrospective case reports and modeling studies. The diversity of outcomes used in intervention trial protocols indicates the urgent need for defining a core outcome set for COVID-19 research.

Chinese scholars had a head start in reporting about the new disease, but publishing articles in Chinese may limit their global reach. Mapping publications with original data can help finding gaps that will help us respond better to the new public health emergency.

URL : Research methodology and characteristics of journal articles with original data, preprint articles and registered clinical trial protocols about COVID-19


Publication by association: the Covid-19 pandemic reveals relationships between authors and editors

Authors : Clara Locher, David Moher, Ioana Cristea, Florian Naudet

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the rush to scientific and political judgments on the merits of hydroxychloroquine was fuelled by dubious papers which may have been published because the authors were not independent from the practices of the journals in which they appeared.

This example leads us to consider a new type of illegitimate publishing entity, “self-promotion journals” which could be deployed to serve the instrumentalisation of productivity-based metrics, with a ripple effect on decisions about promotion, tenure, and grant funding.

URL : Publication by association: the Covid-19 pandemic reveals relationships between authors and editors


Scientific globalism during a global crisis: research collaboration and open access publications on COVID-19

Authors : Jenny J. Lee, John P. Haupt

This study sought to understand the nature of scientific globalism during a global crisis, particularly COVID-19. Findings show that scientific globalism occurs differently when comparing COVID-19 publications with non-COVID-19 publications during as well as before the pandemic.

Despite the tense geopolitical climate, countries increased their proportion of international collaboration and open-access publications during the pandemic. However, not all countries engaged more globally.

Countries that have been more impacted by the crisis and those with relatively lower GDPs tended to participate more in scientific globalism than their counterparts.