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Coevolution of COVID-19 research and China’s policies

  • Cheng, Xi1
  • Tang, Li2
  • Zhou, Maotian3
  • Wang, Guoyan1
  • 1 Soochow University,
  • 2 Fudan University,
  • 3 Emory University,
Published Article
Health Research Policy and Systems
BioMed Central
Publication Date
Sep 06, 2021
DOI: 10.1186/s12961-021-00770-6
PMID: 34488797
PMCID: PMC8419657
PubMed Central
  • Research


Background In the era of evidence-based policy-making (EBPM), scientific outputs and public policy should engage with each other in a more interactive and coherent way. Notably, this is becoming increasingly critical in preparing for public health emergencies. Methods To explore the coevolution dynamics between science and policy (SAP), this study explored the changes in, and development of, COVID-19 research in the early period of the COVID-19 outbreak in China, from 30 December 2019 to 26 June 2020. In this study, VOSviewer was adopted to calculate the link strength of items extracted from scientific publications, and machine learning clustering analysis of scientific publications was carried out to explore dynamic trends in scientific research. Trends in relevant policies that corresponded to changing trends in scientific research were then traced. Results The study observes a salient change in research content as follows: an earlier focus on “children and pregnant patients”, “common symptoms”, “nucleic acid test”, and “non-Chinese medicine” was gradually replaced with a focus on “aged patients”, “pregnant patients”, “severe symptoms and asymptomatic infection”, “antibody assay”, and “Chinese medicine”. “Mental health” is persistent throughout China’s COVID-19 research. Further, our research reveals a correlation between the evolution of COVID-19 policies and the dynamic development of COVID-19 research. The average issuance time of relevant COVID-19 policies in China is 8.36 days after the launching of related research. Conclusions In the early stage of the outbreak in China, the formulation of research-driven-COVID-19 policies and related scientific research followed a similar dynamic trend, which is clearly a manifestation of a coevolution model (CEM). The results of this study apply more broadly to the formulation of policies during public health emergencies, and provide the foundation for future EBPM research. Supplementary Information The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1186/s12961-021-00770-6.

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