As COVID-19 has swept through the globe, it has brought with it a new normal — at least for the time being. As I discussed last month, the virus has led to open-source designs, shared design specifications, and unprecedented collaboration.

The pandemic has also formed an unlikely collaboration between the United States and China in the search for coronavirus vaccines and treatments.

According to a new study from Ohio State University, scientists in the two countries are working together more than ever to study the COVID-19 virus, despite the political tensions between them. But, the study found that this collaboration may also come at a cost.

The study analyzed the scientific papers that researchers around the world produced on coronaviruses before and after the arrival of COVID-19. They found that the United States and China were world leaders in the topic area before COVID-19, and the two countries remained the major players as the pandemic spread.

“The collaborations between U.S. and Chinese scientists have intensified to the exclusion of most other countries, except the U.K.” says Caroline Wagner, co-author of the study and associate professor in the John Glenn College of Public Affairs at The Ohio State University.

“There may be friction between the U.S. and China on the political level, but at the scientific level we see something different — a lot of collaboration.”

She says that there is “a vulnerability for scientists in other countries who are no longer part of these research networks. It is good to have researchers from all over the world working on a crisis like this.”

The study analyzed a database of scientific articles on coronavirus-related research between Jan. 1, 2018, and Jan. 1, 2020. They compared that with a similar database of research from Jan. 1 to April 23, 2020. They examined the country where the authors of each study were based to see whether there were differences in the pre- and post-COVID-19 periods.

According to the study, even before COVID-19, China and the United States were at the center of the global network of coronavirus research; however, scientists from many countries also participated. By contrast, current coronavirus research is driven by smaller teams with researchers from fewer countries. Scientists from China, the United States, and the UK dominate the international teams.

“The network has shifted. With the urgency of the crisis, it makes sense that researchers are looking for smaller teams that can speed up the research process,” says Wagner.

A previous study found that a growing number of Chinese scientists working in the United States were returning to their homeland, which likely influenced coronavirus research, according to Wagner.

Sherrie Trigg

Editor and Director of Medical Content

To access the full study, go here .