Comparison of citation rates between Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 articles across 24 major scientific journals

Michael D. Brandt, Sherief A. Ghozy, David F. Kallmes, Robert J. McDonald, Ramanathan D. Kadirvel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Covid-19 has been front and center in the global landscape since the beginning of 2020. In response, the scientific field has dedicated enormous amounts of resources to researching the virus and its effects. The number of times Covid-19 publications are being cited throughout the literature appears remarkably high but has not been directly compared to non-Covid-19 papers in the same journals over an extended period. In our study, we use Clarivate’s Web of Science—Science Citation Index Expanded™ database to identify Covid-19 papers published in 24 major scientific journals over a period of 24 months from January 1, 2020 to December 31, 2021. We conduct our search using keywords “Covid-19”, “coronavirus”, and “sars-cov-2” to locate publications with these words in the title. We then quantify the number of citations these papers have received and compare rates to non-Covid-19 papers in the same journals over the same timeframe. We find that, across 24 open-access and subscription-based scientific journals, Covid-19 papers published in the past 2 years currently have a median citation rate of 120.79 compared to 21.63 for non-Covid-19 papers. When negative binomial regression is used to minimize the influence of other variables such as article number variation and field of research, Covid-19 papers have still experienced more than 80% increase in citations relative to non-Covid-19 papers. These novel findings demonstrate that Covid-19 papers are being cited at remarkably higher rates than non-Covid-19 articles contained within the same journals. This suggests that journal impact factor, which is a product of the number of citations that recently published articles receive, will likely be drastically influenced by the number of Covid-19 papers that a journal has included within its pages in the previous years.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0271071
JournalPloS one
Issue number7 July
StatePublished - Jul 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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