Figure from "How can airborne transmission of COVID-19 indoors be minimised?" which appears at number 9 on the top 10 highest Altmetric scores for papers associated with the University of Leeds listed below. Co-author Professor Catherine Noakes appeared recently on BBC Radio 4's The Life Scientific: Cath Noakes on making buildings Covid-safe

“. . . if all the infected persons were effectually shut in, no sound person could have been infected by them, because they could not have come near them. But the case was this (and I shall only touch it here): namely, that the infection was propagated insensibly, and by such persons as were not visibly infected, who neither knew whom they infected or who they were infected by.”

Daniel Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year

It’s no surprise that in 2020 there was a LOT of COVID-19 research with 88,617 documents returned from a simple search of the Scopus database. A similar search of White Rose Research Online (WRRO) returns over 300 results.

The pandemic has also foregrounded the importance of open access and open data, more broadly open research, with the the virus genome itself sequenced and made publicly available on 10 January 2020 (GenBank accession number MN908947). The number of preprints posted on MedRxiv during the first 6 months of the pandemic increased a massive 739% over the previous 6 months.

Using data from IRUS-UK there were 1500 downloads of 127 COVID related research papers from WRRO during 2020 – bear in mind that many publishers have, temporarily, made all COVID research openly available (which isn’t the same as long term open access from WRRO).

All told there were 2,482,985 downloads from WRRO in 2020, 971,775 from Leeds:

Altmetric top 100

COVID also features prominently in the annual Altmetric Top 100 for 2020 including how it intersects with the other great scientific and societal challenges of our age, climate change and sustainable living.

N.B. Altmetric has changed their methodology this year, to present the top 5 articles in 20 different subject areas, which helps to differentiate academic disciplines that typically receive less online attention. It also means the list isn’t comprised of *only* COVID and climate research!

Professor Julia K. Steinberger from Leeds, working with colleagues from Australia and Switzerland, made the list at number 23 with Scientists’ warning on affluence emphasising how “the structural imperative for growth in competitive market economies inhibits necessary societal change.”

Source: Scientists’ warning on affluence

A high Altmetric score is not necessarily an indicator of research quality of course and this year’s list includes two retracted articles: the infamous RETRACTED: Hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine with or without a macrolide for treatment of COVID-19: a multinational registry analysis and controversial RETRACTED ARTICLE: The association between early career informal mentorship in academic collaborations and junior author performance.

Generally speaking, however, wide dissemination of research as captured by Altmetric is an unalloyed good, especially beyond academic audiences in areas prone to ideologically driven misinfomation. Like COVID and climate breakdown…

The top 10 scoring articles affiliated with the University of Leeds:

The methodology used to compile the top 100 this year means that only one of the Leeds articles below appears in the official list despite some very high scores.

1. Wiedmann, T., Lenzen, M., Keyßer, L.T., Steinberger, J.K. Scientists’ warning on affluence. Nat Commun 11, 3107 (2020). DOI White Rose Research Online

Article has an altmetric score of 4287

2. Varatharaj, A, Thomas, N, Ellul, MA et al. (23 more authors) (2020) Neurological and neuropsychiatric complications of COVID-19 in 153 patients: a UK-wide surveillance study. The Lancet Psychiatry. ISSN 2215-0366. DOI White Rose Research Online

Article has an altmetric score of 4186

3. COVIDSurg Collaborative (2020) Mortality and pulmonary complications in patients undergoing surgery with perioperative SARS-CoV-2 infection: an international cohort study. The Lancet. ISSN 0140-6736. DOI White Rose Research Online

Article has an altmetric score of 2915

4. Lau, WWY, Shiran, Y, Bailey, RM et al. (26 more authors) (2020) Evaluating scenarios toward zero plastic pollution. Science, 369 (6510). pp. 1455-1461. ISSN 0036-8075 DOI White Rose Research Online

Article has an altmetric score of 2239

5. COVIDSurg Collaborative (2020) Elective surgery cancellations due to the COVID‐19 pandemic: global predictive modelling to inform surgical recovery plans. British Journal of Surgery, 107 (11). pp. 1440-1449. ISSN 0007-1323 DOI White Rose Research Online

Article has an altmetric score of 1999

6. Hubau, W, Lewis, SL, Phillips, OL et al. (103 more authors) (2020) Asynchronous carbon sink saturation in African and Amazonian tropical forests. Nature, 579 (7797). pp. 80-87. ISSN 0028-0836 DOI White Rose Research Online

Article has an altmetric score of 2000

7. Forster, PM , Forster, HI, Evans, MJ et al. (11 more authors) (2020) Current and future global climate impacts resulting from COVID-19. Nature Climate Change, 10 (10). pp. 913-919. ISSN 1758-678X DOI White Rose Research Online

Article has an altmetric score of 1938

8. Friedlingstein, P, O’Sullivan, M, Jones, MW et al. (83 more authors) (2020) Global Carbon Budget 2020. Earth System Science Data, 12 (4). pp. 3269-3340. ISSN 1866-3508 DOI White Rose Research Online

Article has an altmetric score of 1785

9. Morawaska, L, Tang, JW, Bahnfleth, W et al. (33 more authors) (2020) How can airborne transmission of COVID-19 indoors be minimised? Environment International, 142. 105832. ISSN 0160-4120 DOI White Rose Research Online

Article has an altmetric score of 1597

10. Slater, T , Hogg, AE and Mottram, R (2020) Ice-sheet losses track high-end sea-level rise projections. Nature Climate Change. ISSN 1758-678X DOI White Rose Research Online

Article has an altmetric score of 1596