Bold ideas and critical thoughts on science.

The rise of Open Access publications during the Covid-19 pandemic - a living article and dashboard

Here, we measure in near time the number of publications on COVID-19 and Sars-CoV-2 and the share of Open Access publications. We generally focus on those Open Access publications that can be found in peer-reviewed journals, so-called golden Open Access, and those that can be found in repositories (green Open Access). To this end, we use Scopus, one of the most important citation databases for peer-reviewed journals, The Lens, a “free & open patent and scholarly search” platform and bioRxiv, the most important preprint server for the life sciences, as well as medRxiv for health science as sources for our dashboard (see below). 

What does this tracking offer and why is it important? The COVID-19 crisis is without doubt a special situation for research in general – and science in particular. Results on the virus must be published quickly (speed) and be accessible to all (in other words, “open”). Not only to enable academic collaboration of scientist around the globe, but also to form a basis for informed political decision making. On our dashboard, the speed of publishing is demonstrated by the amount of preprint publications, which are usually not peer-reviewed and therefore available faster. Openness is shown by the general number of open access publications. 

What we are wondering is how the current crisis and the urge for valuable scientific results will impact scholarly publishing in the long term. Will Open Access be standard after the crisis? What does it mean in terms of quality assurance, if in future more results are published without the established peer review process? Or rather, how can new quality assurance measures be implemented? 

As you know, at Elephant in the Lab we are great supporters of Open Access. We think that it is necessary to look into how Open Access can be sustainably anchored in the scientific system after the crisis. Because if COVID-19 shows us one thing, it is that knowledge has to be openly accessible.

Please note: This is a living blog post – we will update it regularly. You will not find a DOI for this blog post. The data has to updated manually. You can find the dashboard on Tableau Public. Please leave us a comment if you are interested in further analyses.


  1. Our main source is Scopus, as it is one of the most important databases for academic research. Here we used the following search term:
    TITLE-ABS-KEY ( “Wuhan coronavirus” )  OR  TITLE-ABS-KEY ( “Wuhan-Hu1” )  OR  TITLE-ABS-KEY ( “2019-nCoV” )  OR  TITLE-ABS-KEY ( “COVID-19” )  OR  TITLE-ABS-KEY ( “Sars-cov-2” ) 
  2. As we wanted to visualise a change over time of Open Access articles and the Scopus output has no date given, we added information from the COVID-18 Scholarly Works Collection at The Lens.
  3. Next, we added preprints from the COVID-19 SARS-CoV-2 collection at
  4. To get the most out of the data, we joined the datasets by DOI, but kept those that were not matching.

We connected the data sources using the tool Tableau Prep. We joined the data sources (see below) and deleted unnecessary columns for our research question: