The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on academic productivity

Abstract:ย ย ‘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 ยฑ 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.