Topic Evolution, Disruption and Resilience in Early COVID-19 Research
28 Pages Posted: 16 Aug 2020
Date Written: August 16, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic presented a challenge to the global research community as they rushed to find solutions to the devastating crisis. Drawing expectations from resilience theory, this paper explores how the trajectory of coronavirus research was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Using terms featured in articles in early COVID-19 research, and pathways of knowledge characterized through term extraction, evolutionary pathways and statistical analysis, the results reveal that the pandemic disrupted existing lines of coronavirus research to a large degree. While broad communities of coronavirus research are similar pre- and during COVID-19, topics themselves change significantly and there is less cohesion amongst early COVID-19 research compared to that within research before the pandemic. We find that some lines of research revert to research pursued almost a decade earlier, whilst others pursue brand new trajectories, and that Chinese researchers in particular appear to be driving the more novel research. These findings suggest that the global research community maintained a similar broad research focus from before the pandemic, but shifted the detail of the research in the COVID-19 period, exploring diverse pathways, and that specific actors are more flexible than others in doing so. The findings raise further questions about whether the shifts are advantageous for global scientific progress, and whether the research community will return to the original equilibrium or reorganize into a different knowledge configuration.
Keywords: COVID-19; topic analysis; evolutionary pathways; science policy
JEL Classification: P00
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