Inequalities in COVID-19 inequalities research: Who had the capacity to respond?

PLoS One. 2022 May 12;17(5):e0266132. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0266132. eCollection 2022.


The COVID-19 pandemic has been testing countries' capacities and scientific preparedness to actively respond and collaborate on a common global threat. It has also heightened awareness of the urgent need to empirically describe and analyze health inequalities to be able to act effectively. In turn, this raises several important questions that need answering: What is known about the rapidly emerging COVID-19 inequalities research field? Which countries and world regions have been able to rapidly produce research on this topic? What research patterns and trends have emerged, and how to these compared to the (pre-COVID-19) global health inequalities research field? Which countries have been scientifically collaborating on this important topic? Where are the scientific knowledge gaps, and indirectly where might research capacities need to be strengthened? In order to answer these queries, we analyzed the global scientific production (2020-2021) on COVID-19 associated inequalities by conducting bibliometric and network analyses using the Scopus database. Specifically, we analyzed the volume of scientific production per country (via author affiliations), its distribution by country income groups and world regions, as well as the inter-country collaborations within this production. Our results indicate that the COVID-19 inequalities research field has been highly collaborative; however, a number of significant inequitable research practices exist. When compared to the (pre-COVID-19) global health inequalities research field, similar inequalities were identified, however, several new dynamics and partnerships have also emerged that warrant further in-depth exploration. To ensure preparedness for future crises, and effective strategies to tackle growing social inequalities in health, investment in global health inequalities research capacities must be a priority for all.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bibliometrics
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Global Health
  • Humans
  • Pandemics
  • Socioeconomic Factors

Grant support

This study is was funded by “la Caixa” Foundation under the project code SR20-00386, and also by the MCyE Project PID2020-117029RB-I00. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. Joan Benach gratefully acknowledges the financial support by ICREA under the ICREA Academia programme. JFG acknowledges the supported of Direcció General de Política Universitària i Recerca from the government of the Balearic Islands through the postdoctoral program Vicenç Mut.