The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on academic productivity

Abstract:  ‘Publish or perish’ is an expression describing the pressure on academics to consistently publish research to ensure a successful career in academia. With a global pandemic that has changed the world, how has it changed academic productivity? Here we show that academics are posting just as many publications on the arXiv pre-print server as if there were no pandemic: 168,630 were posted in 2020, a +12.6% change from 2019 and +1.4? deviation above the predicted 162,577 ± 4,393. However, some immediate impacts are visible in individual research fields. Conference cancellations have led to sharp drops in pre-prints, but laboratory closures have had mixed effects. Only some experimental fields show mild declines in outputs, with most being consistent on previous years or even increasing above model expectations. The most significant change is a 50% increase (+8?) in quantitative biology research, all related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of these publications are by biologists using arXiv for the first time, and some are written by researchers from other fields (e.g., physicists, mathematicians). While quantitative biology pre-prints have returned to pre-pandemic levels, 20% of the research in this field is now focussed on the COVID-19 pandemic, demonstrating a strong shift in research focus.

The Economic Impacts of Open Science: A Rapid Evidence Assessment | HTML

Abstract:  A common motivation for increasing open access to research findings and data is the potential to create economic benefits—but evidence is patchy and diverse. This study systematically reviewed the evidence on what kinds of economic impacts (positive and negative) open science can have, how these comes about, and how benefits could be maximized. Use of open science outputs often leaves no obvious trace, so most evidence of impacts is based on interviews, surveys, inference based on existing costs, and modelling approaches. There is indicative evidence that open access to findings/data can lead to savings in access costs, labour costs and transaction costs. There are examples of open science enabling new products, services, companies, research and collaborations. Modelling studies suggest higher returns to R&D if open access permits greater accessibility and efficiency of use of findings. Barriers include lack of skills capacity in search, interpretation and text mining, and lack of clarity around where benefits accrue. There are also contextual considerations around who benefits most from open science (e.g., sectors, small vs. larger companies, types of dataset). Recommendations captured in the review include more research, monitoring and evaluation (including developing metrics), promoting benefits, capacity building and making outputs more audience-friendly.

Does Online Access Promote Research in Developing Countries? Empirical Evidence from Article-Level Data by Frank Mueller-Langer, Marc Scheufen, Patrick Waelbroeck :: SSRN

Abstract:  Universities in developing countries have rarely been able to subscribe to academic journals in the past. The “Online Access to Research in the Environment” initiative (OARE) provides institutions in developing countries with free online access to more than 5,700 environmental science journals. Here we analyze the effect of OARE registration on scientific output by research institutions in five developing countries. We apply a difference-in-difference estimation method using panel data for 18,955 journal articles from 798 research institutions. We find that online access via OARE increases publication output by at least 43% while lower-ranked institutions located in remote areas benefit less. These results are robust when we apply instrumental variables to account for the information diffusion process and a Bayesian estimation method to control for self-selection into the initiative.