The pandemic veneer: COVID-19 research as a mobilisation of collective intelligence by the global research community
The global research community responded with speed and at scale to the emergence of COVID-19, with around 4.6% of all research outputs in 2020 related to the pandemic. That share almost doubled through 2021, to reach 8.6% of research outputs. This reflects a dramatic mobilisation of global collective intelligence in the face of a crisis. It also raises fundamental questions about the funding, organisation and operation of research. In this Perspective article, we present data that suggests that COVID-19 research reflects the characteristics of the underlying networks from which it emerged, and on which it built. The infrastructures on which COVID-19 research has relied—including highly-skilled, flexible research capacity and collaborative networks—predated the pandemic, and are the product of sustained, long-term investment. As such, we argue that COVID-19 research should not be viewed as a distinct field, or one-off response to a specific crisis, but as a ‘pandemic veneer’ layered on top of longstanding interdisciplinary networks, capabilities and structures. These infrastructures of collective intelligence need to be better understood, valued and sustained as crucial elements of future pandemic or crisis response. This is a preprint version of a paper submitted to the journal Collective Intelligence.