The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has undoubtedly transformed the clinical landscape of ophthalmology.1 Less obvious are its effects on the ophthalmology literature. Consequently, our objective was to characterize the influence of the COVID-19 pandemic on the ophthalmology literature.
We selected 15 ophthalmology journals with the highest impact factor in 2020, as determined by Journal Citation Reports. Utilizing an advanced PubMed search,2–4 we identified all articles (n=8609) published among these journals from January 1, 2020, to October 17, 2021. Manuscripts pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic were initially included if their titles included “COVID,” “pandemic,” “SARS,” “corona,” “nCoV,” or “COVID-19.” All articles were further screened manually to confirm appropriate categorization. Assessment of continuous and categorical variables was performed via the Mann-Whitney U test and χ2 test, respectively, with a predetermined level of significance set at P<0.05.
Twelve journals published articles concerning the COVID-19 pandemic (n=298). When compared with all other journals, Current Opinion in Ophthalmology published the greatest proportion of COVID-19-related articles (11.3% vs 3.3%; P<0.001). Interestingly, 20 authors published more than 1 article, with their contributions comprising 15.1% of the literature related to COVID-19. Authors were most frequently from the United States [31.9% (n=95)], followed by the United Kingdom [20.8% (n=62)], and China [10.1% (n=30)].
Manuscripts were predominantly original articles [62.8% (n = 187)], followed by editorials or commentaries [36.9% (n = 110)] and guidelines [0.3% (n = 1)] (Fig. 1). Original articles included cross-sectional studies/surveys [40.6% (n = 76)], literature reviews [16.0% (n = 30)], and case reports [10.2% (n = 19)], among others. While most articles [46.0% (n = 137)] were broadly related to the field of ophthalmology, several subspecialty articles were frequently represented including vitreoretinal surgery [18.8% (n = 56)] and cornea and external diseases [16.1% (n = 48)]. Reflecting the substantial proportion of editorials published, manuscripts were relatively brief (median words, 1060) and had limited references (median, 9).
For articles where data were available (n=175), median time from submission to publication (either print or online) was 44 days, which is substantially quicker than publication times reported before the COVID-19 pandemic.5 Notably, editorials were published the most rapidly (median, 33.8 d vs median for noneditorial articles, 74.5 d; P<0.001). May (n=38) and August (n=28) 2020 were the months with the most published articles, which corresponds with the ∼1- to 2-month publication time following the major global COVID-19 peaks in March and July 2020, respectively.
Our bibliometric analysis indicates COVID-19-related articles generated more subsequent citations in the literature than non–COVID-19-related articles (mean, 11.5 vs 2.1; P<0.001). We further assessed article influence and dissemination utilizing the Altmetric Attention Score (AAS), a weighted measure of the online attention garnered by a publication.6 Articles pertaining to COVID-19 accrued significantly more attention compared with their non–COVID-19-related counterparts (mean, 69.7 vs 5.2; P<0.001). COVID-19–related articles published in JAMA Ophthalmology demonstrated the highest average AAS when compared with other journals (309.6 vs 21.4; P<0.001).
Our investigation yielded significant insights into the transformations wrought by COVID-19 on academic ophthalmology. Authors and publishers adapted quickly to disseminate information salient to the pandemic. This ranged from innovations, such as a virtual ophthalmology rotation for medical students, to insights into accelerated myopia progression secondary to stay-at-home orders.7,8 As we eye the future, assessing the long-term consequences of COVID-19 should be our objective. Irrespective of when this occurs, however, the resiliency and adaptability demonstrated by ophthalmologists internationally will be indefinitely ingrained in the literature.
1. Khor WB, Yip L, Zhao P, et al. Evolving practice patterns in Singapore’s public sector ophthalmology centers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Asia Pac J Ophthalmol (Phila). 2020;9:285–290.
2. Hemal K, Boyd CJ, Cuccolo NG, et al. Chronicling the COVID-19 pandemic through the plastic surgery literature. J Plast Reconstr Aesthet Surg. 2021;74:1633–1701.
3. Warren VT, Thomas R, Boyd CJ, et al. Analyzing the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the oral and maxillofacial surgery literature. J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 2021;79:2382–2384.
4. Liu IZ, Wang KY, Robin JX, et al. Chronicling the effect of COVID-19 on orthopedic literature. J Orthop. 2021;26:107–110.
5. Dhoot AS, Popovic MM, Lee Y, et al. Factors affecting the time to publication in ophthalmology journals: a comprehensive bibliometric analysis. Ophthalmic Epidemiol. 2021;29:465–472.
6. Boyd CJ, Ananthasekar S, Kurapati S, et al. Examining the correlation between altmetric score and citations in the plastic surgery literature. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2020;146:808e–815e.
7. Wang J, Li Y, Musch DC, et al. Progression of myopia in school-aged children after COVID-19 home confinement. JAMA Ophthalmol. 2021;139:293–300.
8. Wendt S, Abdullah Z, Barrett S, et al. A virtual COVID-19 ophthalmology rotation. Surv Ophthalmol. 2021;66:354–361.