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Studying the online media dissemination of COVID-19 research

One of the most visible effects of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the surge of news, social media and online information about the disease, as well as its social and health related effects. It is already evident that in the interplay of scientists, policymakers, communicators, and society-at-large, the pandemic has posed multiple challenges for science communication.

This research stream (framed in the overall CWTS COVID-19 research program) will focus on the online and social media reception of COVID-19-related research, specifically focusing on the analysis of the different data sources developed during the COVID-19 pandemic, including bibliometric, altmetric and social media related sources. The main ambition of the research stream is to study how different communication dynamics converge in the scientific information and communication landscape about the pandemic, its public reception, and the debates and challenges that arise around it.

On this website we will present and link to the specific research carried out at CWTS regarding the study of the online reception of the research related to the pandemic. Below, a dashboard with different analytical perspectives on the online social media reception of the COVID-19-related publications will be permanently presented and updated (whenever possible) every month. In this blog we provide a more detailed discussion about the  dashboards displayed below.

In the January 2021 version of the dashboard shown below, WHO has been dropped as a data source, since CORD19 comprises WHO publications as well.

Current version: publication data updated until 20/01/2021.
Open Tableau version in a new tab

Studying COVID-19 research dissemination on online media

There are multiple research questions that can be studied from a social media and altmetric point of view when it comes to COVID-19-related research. The research stream is arranged around the following main research questions, which will also be studied considering other central dimensions (time, place, discipline, gender, etc.):

Who is disseminating and engaging with COVID-19-related research online?

This question revolves around the actors (e.g. bloggers, tweeters, journalists, scientists etc.) that are engaging in the dissemination and discussion of the increasing set of COVID-19 related research publications (CORD19, WHO, etc.).

What is the online engagement with COVID-19-related research?

This second question approaches the online content that is being created around the COVID-19-related research publications. This includes not only the study of the text, hashtags and textual elements of the online content created around the pandemic (e.g. blog posts, news media posts, tweets, Facebook posts, etc.), but also the types of engagement that the different users are having with the research (e.g. replies, original tweeting, retweeting, liking, commenting, recommending, criticizing, manipulating, bot behaviour, etc.).

How is online dissemination about COVID-19-related research happening?

One of the most important characteristics of the online environment is its heavily networked nature. In such a networked environment, multiple actors, research objects and online activities are all intertwined in rich heterogeneous networks. The study of these networks opens the door to characterizing interactions between scholarly and non-scholarly actors. Moreover, the proliferation of online activities around the scientific results of the pandemic, opens the door to the possibility for multiple discourses around the different scientific outcomes. This means that what is said about the publications may not necessarily align with the actual scientific content or scientific requirements. The online activities around COVID-19 scientific publications are not free from risks such as manipulation, sensationalism, fake news, bot-influence, misinformation or misunderstanding, related to all forms (science) communication.

Latest findings on the online media study of COVID-19 research


Exploring the COVID-19 discourse in “The Conversation” - Leiden Madtrics
Monitoring the dissemination of COVID-19-related scientific publications in online media - Leiden Madtrics
COVID-19 research in the news: Visualizing the sentiment and topics in science news about the pandemic - Leiden Madtrics

Scientific papers.

Tracking the Twitter attention around the research efforts on the COVID-19 pandemic
COVID-19 research in Wikipedia
A scientometric overview of CORD-19


CWTS team: Giovanni Colavizza, Rodrigo Costas, Jonathan Dudek, Zhichao Fang
Other collaborators: Grischa Fraumann, Márcia Ferreira, Tina Nane, Nicolás Robinson-García, Zohreh Zahedi.

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