Mapping the knowledge on Covid-19

Wednesday May 06th, 2020
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By Zulita Mustafa, Kenny Goh

COVID-19 is a threat to humanity and there is very little knowledge about the disease before the outbreak at the end of December.

However, in just four months up to April 16, there is an explosion of data in the form of research articles (44.6 per cent), letters (17.3 per cent), editorials (12.7 per cent) and other forms of communication.

Scientists are not only racing against time to find a vaccine, but also to disseminate information to increase knowledge in stopping the pandemic.

Publications on the disease have increased to 1,762 on April 16, compared with 1,176 a week earlier on April 9.

With the burst of data, a multi-disciplinary team led by Professor Ng Kwan Hoong of the Medical Faculty in Universiti Malaya is trying to provide a solution for this "infodemic", not only for medical personnel, but also governments, policymakers and social scientists.

"We started planning about two months ago when I read that cases are increasing and people are getting worried.

"The idea is to enable global doctors, researchers, policymakers to keep abreast with the plethora of research publications being produced.

"We provide a super-hub where we aggregate various publishers, journals, and summaries of selected highlights of important up-to-date papers."

The team realised that there is a need to catalogue publications on Covid-19 to identify research gaps and trends.

"With a tagline — knowledge mapping of Covid-19 — it covers all fields, including medicine, science, engineering, social science, humanity, business, government and policy.

"The data is categorised according to topic, field, institution and country of origin in which publications are retrieved online using the keywords '2019-nCoV', 'SARS-CoV-2', 'Covid-19' and 'novel coronavirus'.

"Selected summaries of interest are highlighted to glean findings and provide key insights."

Ng said this initiative aims to provide reliable and timely web updates, at least once a week, on relevant published literature at http://www.covid19bibliometrics.org.

"Reliable and timely mean that the information can be trusted and is up to date, while relevant and published mean they are based on sound science.

"The plan is to make the materials succinct and accessible, and provide key bibliometric indices, such as sources and citations," he said.

To address gaps in research, Ng and his team from the university hope more scientists will focus on subjects like antiviral drug and vaccine development, psychological and mental health, protective devices during surgery, e-Learning during lockdown, and food security.

Ng said the expectation for this initiative was to reach a wider audience and user, as well as to have an impact in future research directions.

"One of which is to consult with experts in various fields worldwide, seek their views and opinions," he added.

Proud to be part of the team, Associate Professor Dr Noorhidawati Abdullah of the Department of Library Science & Information in UM, said: "We present science and knowledge mapping of scholarly publication through a scientometrics approach, a study of the quantitative aspects of the process of science as a communication system."

Another team member, Associate Professor Dr Kiran Kaur, said there was an urgency in the Covid-19 research agenda, thus an analysis of the dissemination and influence of scholarly publications can help pave the way for researchers, collaborators and funders.