Editor’s Note: Back in early 2020, we didn’t have a clear picture of how long the COVID pandemic would extend, disrupting our personal, business, and academic lives. As we head into the midst of what are likely to be some of the toughest few months yet as the virus spreads more rapidly and vaccine access remains limited at best, I’ve invited the Chefs to revisit some of their posts from earlier in the pandemic, now that we have a longer view of how things have gone and where they’re going. Today, Angela Cochran offers some new thoughts on her April 2020 post “What Will We Learn About Scholarly Publishing as a Result of COVID-19“. Please do let us know what you’ve learned in the comments section.

Wooden roller coaster track with blue sky in the background.

In my April 8 post titled “What Will We Learn About Scholarly Publishing as a Result of COVID-19“, I posed a series of questions about when financial recovery and “normal” operations will be back in full swing.

There seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel with two vaccines widely approved and another starting to get approvals. It was hard not to get a little teary-eyed watching the trucks pull out of Pfizer distribution centers and governors waiting on the tarmac for vaccines to arrive by plane. The elation was not just the promise of the end of this difficult time, but the timing was also important. If enough people, and the right people, are vaccinated now, the summer and fall of 2021 will be on a good trajectory. Mass vaccinations by June or July means that schools could open full-time as normal, in-person operations in the fall of 2021. The same is true for universities.

Much of what I wrote about back in April were challenges brought on by those two events: schools open for in-person teaching full-time and universities getting back on track. The concerns I had about women being left behind were 100% centered on childcare responsibilities. The concerns about research continuing and libraries being fully staffed and funded depend on universities being back to full time operations. Attendance at conferences depends on both and a willingness to travel.

Sadly, we are entering the next disappointing stage of this pandemic. After science delivered a herculean effort of developing vaccines in a shorter period of time than ever in our history, government and policy makers have failed in ensuring we can get it. France has barely vaccinated 500 people in the first week. The UK is talking about mixing and matching vaccines and both the UK and the US are contemplating giving only one of the two doses for the time being. At this rate, we may miss the late spring/early summer window.

So the rollercoaster looks like this — In March/April of 2020, we optimistically hoped that a recovery would happen before the end of the year. By June or July of 2020, it was clear that we were in this for the long haul and perhaps recovery wouldn’t start until the second quarter of 2021. Now, even with three vaccines, it is unclear when recovery will start.

The other critical question I pondered in April was whether women were participating less in scholarly publishing activities during the pandemic. The anecdotal evidence heard in the early weeks does appear to be true. Surely there will be additional research, but early results show that measures will need to be taken in the short term to ensure that progress in gender equity is not erased.

Angela Cochran

Angela Cochran

Angela Cochran is Vice President of Publishing at the American Society of Clinical Oncology. She is past president of the Society for Scholarly Publishing and of the Council of Science Editors. Views on TSK are her own.


2 Thoughts on "Pandemic Perspectives: Updating “What Will We Learn About Scholarly Publishing as a Result of COVID-19”"

This is a timely discussion, and I look forward to the views of the other Chefs. Also, take a look at the January issue of Learned Publishing (free to view) which was edited by SK Chef, Lettie Conrad along with Anne Stone and Phill Jones. It is on the theme of resilience and includes a wealth of information on responses of publishers, case studies and opinions about how we will emerge from this situation, and where we should be going forward – https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/toc/17414857/2021/34/1

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