15th July 2021

COVID was the most common acronym in the titles of medical and health journal articles published in 2020, even beating 'DNA which had held the top spot for decades, according to a QUT analysis which found more than 50,000 articles on COVID-19 in fewer than 12 months.

  • Shift to COVID research is unprecedented and surpasses all other research shifts
  • Findings indicate how swiftly the world’s scientists switched their research to the deadly pandemic
  • 50,000 medical journal articles on COVID in less than 12 months.

QUT statistician Professor Adrian Barnett, from the QUT Centre for Health Transformation said “COVID” is the world’s most renowned acronym and had dramatically changed health and medical research.

“The current global pandemic had had an enormous impact on the world with many scientists switching their research to fight the pandemic virtually overnight,” Professor Barnett said.

“First known to the public as ‘coronavirus’, researchers quickly adopted COVID, the acronym for corona virus disease which was more than five times more frequently used than ‘DNA’ in 2020.

“In just one year, COVID has become the sixth most popular acronym of all time surpassing “AIDS” (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), “PCR” (a method used to amplify DNA) and “MRI” (magnetic resonance imaging).

“These findings show that the increase in research on COVID-19 is unprecedented and surpasses all previous shifts in research.”

Professor Barnett said COVID was the most popular acronym in titles and the second most popular in abstracts behind only ‘CI’ for confidence interval.

COVID’s siblings, SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and CoV, also got a good run, coming in second and fourth most popular acronyms in titles in 2020.

“In 2019 SARS was outside the 2000th most popular acronyms in journal titles with just 24 mentions.”

The five all-time favourite acronyms still holding their own against COVID are DNA with 2.4 million mentions since 1959, followed by CI, IL (Interleukin or Independent Living), HIV, and mRNA.

Demonstrating the ascendancy of COVID-19 research using acronyms was published in Scientometrics.

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