Pandemics are catalysts of scientific novelty: Evidence from COVID-19

Meijun Liu, Yi Bu, Chongyan Chen, Jian Xu, Daifeng Li, Yan Leng, Richard B. Freeman, Eric T. Meyer, Wonjin Yoon, Mujeen Sung, Minbyul Jeong, Jinhyuk Lee, Jaewoo Kang, Chao Min, Min Song, Yujia Zhai, Ying Ding

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Scientific novelty drives the efforts to invent new vaccines and solutions during the pandemic. First-time collaboration and international collaboration are two pivotal channels to expand teams' search activities for a broader scope of resources required to address the global challenge, which might facilitate the generation of novel ideas. Our analysis of 98,981 coronavirus papers suggests that scientific novelty measured by the BioBERT model that is pretrained on 29 million PubMed articles, and first-time collaboration increased after the outbreak of COVID-19, and international collaboration witnessed a sudden decrease. During COVID-19, papers with more first-time collaboration were found to be more novel and international collaboration did not hamper novelty as it had done in the normal periods. The findings suggest the necessity of reaching out for distant resources and the importance of maintaining a collaborative scientific community beyond nationalism during a pandemic.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1065-1078
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of the Association for Information Science and Technology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Aug

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Information Systems and Management
  • Library and Information Sciences


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