Researching COVID-19: How Scholars Induced Global Interest in the Virus

Researching COVID-19: How Scholars Induced Global Interest in the Virus
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The global spread of Coronavirus has shown that political and business leaders have huge responsibilities in the new decade towards sustainable living for all. Since the first case of the virus was reported in Wuhan on December 21, 2019, the world has been tested with varied challenges and still undergoing a lot in business, social participation and household living.

From the ordinary citizen of the world to the governments, businesses and professionals, especially health workers need to come to their rescue. The virus, which has symptoms such as fever, shortness breath, severe cough and pneumonia has infected hundreds of thousands and killed thousands in China, the epicentre of the outbreak and in Italy, Iran and other countries.

According to March 9, 2020’s data, 111,637 were the confirmed cases, while 62, 518 people were reported as recoveries. On the day, 3,898 deaths were reported as cumulative figures since December 21, 2019. Our analysis shows that the confirmed cases and deaths connected by 99.7%, while it was 99.2% for the cases and recoveries during the period.

Much has been said and reported about the virus. We also believe that concerned stakeholders will continue to consider the virus for public and policymakers’ agenda in the next months. With this, our analyst examined the place of the global academic community from October, 2019 to March, 2020. Specific attention was paid to academic publications and real time data for better understanding of what scholars have done before the first case was reported and within the first case till date.

Google Scholar and ProQuest Central Academic Databases were the sources of the data for the analysis and insight development. Coronavirus and Coronavirus 2019 were used as the keywords for the retrieval of academic publications from the databases. On the Google Scholar, we analysed the first articles that were extracted from the first 5 result hit. This led to analysis of 43 relevant journal articles [see Exhibit 3]. Five hundred and four scholars wrote the articles. These articles have been cited 4,194 times by other scholars. On average, our analysis indicates that 11.72 authors per article, while average citation was 97.52 times. Looking at the severity of the citation (142.630 standard deviation), analysis suggests the degree to which collaboration among scholars can help in increasing public knowledge and understanding of a global outbreak of a disease. The inclusion of the keyword (Coronavirus 2019) gave us 875 scholarly publications between 2019 and 2020 [see Exhibit 4].

Exhibit 1: Link between confirmed cases and deaths

Source: World Health Organisation, 2020; Infoprations Analysis, 2020

Exhibit 2: Link between Confirmed Cases and Recoveries

Source: World Health Organisation, 2020; Infoprations Analysis, 2020

Exhibit 3: Select Journal Articles

Source: Google Scholar, 2020; Journals, 2020; Infoprations Analysis, 2020

Exhibit 4: Academic Publications 2019-2020

Source: ProQuest Central, 2020; Infoprations Analysis, 2020

The Reasons and Discoveries

Beyond the demographics of the publications, our analyst is interested in understanding the justifications for carrying out the studies that led to the publications. The Analyst also finds out the main results from the first 5 publications with the highest number of citations. These publications were considered because the Analyst is curious about the intent of other scholars who cited the publications and the place of the number of authors in fueling the public knowledge seeking about the virus through the Internet, especially searching evidences that establish containment and mitigation strategies.

Clinical features of patients infected with 2019 novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China is the first article on the Google Scholar Database with 649 citations. The article was authored by 29 scholars and published on February 5, 2020. Majority of the scholars are affiliated with universities, centre for diseases control in Asia, Europe and America. Using the cluster of pneumonia cases in Wuhan, China, the scholars report the epidemiological, clinical, laboratory, and radiological characteristics and treatment and clinical outcomes of these patients.

The second article titled A Novel Coronavirus from Patients with Pneumonia in China, 2019 was carried out based on the identification of a novel CoV (2019-nCoV) in hospitalized patients in Wuhan in December 2019 and January 2020. “Evidence for the presence of this virus includes identification in bronchoalveolar-lavage fluid in three patients by whole-genome sequencing, direct PCR, and culture. The illness likely to have been caused by this CoV was named “novel coronavirus-infected pneumonia” (NCIP). Complete genomes were submitted to GISAID. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that 2019-nCoV falls into the genus betacoronavirus, which includes coronaviruses (SARS-CoV, bat SARS-like CoV, and others) discovered in humans, bats, and other wild animals.”

Early Transmission Dynamics in Wuhan, China, of Novel Coronavirus–Infected Pneumonia. This is third most cited article, according to our mined data. The scholars analysed “data on the first 425 confirmed cases in Wuhan to determine the epidemiologic characteristics of NCIP. Among the first 425 patients with confirmed NCIP, the median age was 59 years and 56% were male. The majority of cases (55%) with onset before January 1, 2020, were linked to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, as compared with 8.6% of the subsequent cases. The mean incubation period was 5.2 days (95% confidence interval [CI], 4.1 to 7.0), with the 95th percentile of the distribution at 12.5 days. In its early stages, the epidemic doubled in size every 7.4 days. With a mean serial interval of 7.5 days (95% CI, 5.3 to 19), the basic reproductive number was estimated to be 2.2 (95% CI, 1.4 to 3.9).”

First Case of 2019 Novel Coronavirus in the United States. The authors report “the first case of 2019-nCoV infection confirmed in the United States and describe the identification, diagnosis, clinical course, and management of the case, including the patient’s initial mild symptoms at presentation with progression to pneumonia on day 9 of illness. This case highlights the importance of close coordination between clinicians and public health authorities at the local, state, and federal levels, as well as the need for rapid dissemination of clinical information related to the care of patients with this emerging infection.” A novel coronavirus outbreak of global health concern.  This article focuses the demographical details of the first victims.

Scholars as Advocates

From the reasons and discoveries, it has emerged that the scholars who authored the articles had the intent of helping other stakeholders such as ordinary citizens, businesses and governments in knowing evidence-based information that could be leveraged for containment and mitigation purposes. In addition to this, our analyst notes that extensive citation of the scholars who authored the 43 articles show that their conversations on the spread of the virus worth joining, indicating conduct of more researches on the disease. According to Google Scholar data, journals started publishing articles on October 2019 on the virus [see Exhibit 3], while publication started in January, 2019, according to ProQuest Central [see Exhibit 4]. We examined these periods along with the public interest in the virus. In this, we specifically focused on data generated between October, 2019 and March, 2020 (Google Scholar Academic Database).

Analysis reveals that the number of authors of the articles connected with the public interest in the virus in October, 2019 by 17.7%, November, 2019 by 24.4% positively. We attained negative connection between the authors and the interest in January 2020 (-25.2%), February, 2020 (-35.2%) and March, 2020 (-43.6%). While it was a negative linkage for the authors and the interest in October and November, 2020, our analysis reveals positive connection of the citations with the public interest in the months (October, 2019=8.4%) and (November, 2019=11%). These results imply that the collaboration (more than one author) started having significant impact in public information search in January, February and March, 2020. It also signifies that the number of authors and citations were not enough to support the public level of information search on the virus using academic sources in October and November, 2019.

Actually, public interest was higher in November, 2019 (1,922) than in October, 2019 (1,814). Analysis reveals a total of 703, 1,040 and 696 cumulative interest scores for January, February and March, 2020 respectively. Our model (authors-public interest in coronavirus) indicates that the number of authors explained 21.8% (395.452) public interest in the virus in October, 2019 and 30.8% (591.976) in October, 2019, which is the highest variation. Despite that the number of authors improved public interest in the virus in January, February and March, 2020, lowest variations were recorded for the months [see Exhibit 6].

Exhibit 5: Academics Linkage with Public Interest about Coronavirus

Source: Google Scholar, 2020; Journals, 2020; Google Trends, 2020; Infoprations Analysis, 2020

Exhibit 6: Academics Variation in Public Interest about Coronavirus

Source: Google Scholar, 2020; Journals, 2020; Google Trends, 2020; Infoprations Analysis, 2020

Did the Scholars Hold the Public Interest?

To understand the degree to which authors hold the public attention during the period of searching and within the cumulative interest scores reported earlier, we did a pairwise analysis and found that on an average of 12 authors for October and November, 2019, public interest was on an average of 62 normalised public interest score accordingly. When it was an average of 18 authors, our analysis shows that public interest was an average of 77.33 score.

Exhibit 7: Scholars Holding People Who Searched for Academic Publications

Source: Google Scholar, 2020; Journals, 2020; Google Trends, 2020; Infoprations Analysis, 2020

Strategic Options

The insights in this piece have many implications for the concerned stakeholders. The insights have suggested that stakeholders need to explore academic sources more for better understanding of the containment and mitigation messages. This is imperative on the basis that scholars in medicine and health related fields have been saddled with the responsibilities of conducing evidence-based research on various diseases and health conditions for quality living of all. Scholars from Africa and Latin American and Caribbean also need to join the ongoing discourse on the virus, while governments in these continents should provide enabling environment for academic and independent researchers.


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