Pandemic Reading Trends: An Update from Charleston

Lettie Y. Conrad is a DeepDyve advisor. She recently attended The Charleston Conference, and here shares some of her learnings about how the pandemic has affected reading trends in scholarly literature.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many aspects of worklife for most of us —and that includes research practices and workflows. In many fields of study, reading scholarly literature has spiked and usage of digital resources is at an all-time high.

The pandemic has had some silver linings for researchers; many reported having more time to read, collaborate, and further their studies remotely over the last 18-20 months. Unfortunately these benefits weren’t evenly distributed; female researchers reported fewer gains than their male counterparts, as they found themselves more often taking time off work for childcare and other domestic demands.

And what are people reading? Interestingly, patterns have been strong across subject areas, not just medical journal articles on the pandemic, vaccines, or other healthcare research. Publishers are reporting record usage of many types of content in all disciplines, with increased demand for data repositories, streaming media, and ebooks. For some, pandemic restrictions accelerated the use of emerging technologies and catalyzed institution-wide use of tools like e-notebooks.

Productivity appears to be up as well, with growth in preprint submissions from scientific, technical, and medical researchers. Some institutions have seen a 50% jump in quantitative studies in the biological sciences. Journal editors in many subject areas are reporting increased submissions in all areas, mirroring growth in both grant proposals and awards.

As for how researchers are discovering literature, lockdowns and other pandemic-related measures have increased the popularity of mainstream search engines and social media for scientific research and scholarly collaboration. Where journal email alerts may have been popular in the past, social feeds are better meeting today’s researcher needs for targeted content and efficient methods of keeping up to date with literature in their field.

As physical spaces are reopening, experts predict continued high use of digital journals, ebooks, and online collaboration. For some labs, in-person enclosed spaces are still risky and remain a major question for institutional planning. Many university courses and research conferences this fall have been offered in hybrid formats, allowing for limited in-person attendance as well as online access. Only time will tell if these are temporary accommodations or if we will see lasting changes to research practices.

FYI: In addition to the Charleston Library Conference, the above draws on the following: