History in the making: How the DC Community is sharing and documenting COVID-19 virus information

Institutions across the Digital Commons landscape, including health systems, medical schools, nonprofits and universities, are using the power and reach of their IRs to both distribute COVID-19 virus research and information as well as collect experiences and data. The pandemic has created an opportunity to address immediate community needs, both inside and outside an institution’s core mission. The following examples show the breadth of what is being implemented and explored across the Digital Commons Community.

COVID-19 virus research, scholarship and institution-led publishing

Healthcare systems, medical schools and research institutes are already sharing the most recent and relevant articles related to the new coronavirus. University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) launched the Coronavirus COVID-19 Publications by UMMS Authors collection. This collection showcases journal articles, preprints and other publications and presentations by faculty and researchers. The 48 papers in the collection have been collectively downloaded over 10,000 times. Similar types of collections can be found at Providence St. Joseph’s Health, Thomas Jefferson University, the Population Council and City University of New York (CUNY).

Beyond the publications and presentations of individual faculty and clinicians come the volumes and issues of entire periodicals. The University of Louisville’s Journal of Respiratory Infections has published a Special Issue focused on COVID-19 Pandemic Response, the Journal of the Saudi Heart Association current issue (Volume 32, Issue 5) covers the impact of COVID-19 on cardiac services in Saudi Arabia, HCA Healthcare Journal of Medicine is organizing a Call for Papers in a special issue of the journal titled, “Research, Education, Practice and Policy in the COVID-19 Era”, and the W.E. Upjohn Institute’s most recent Employment Research Newsletter (Volume 27, Number 2) is a digital-only Special Issue focused on the coronavirus pandemic’s economic effects.

Archiving other facets of life

The massive shift in the daily life of citizens extends far beyond the realm of traditional scientific and economic publications, highlighting the need for oral histories, special collections and archives, which have a natural home in the IR. Audio, video and images are also important for documenting this time of mask wearing, distance learning, video conferencing and local business closures.  Seton Hall University is seeking local community stories in one-to-three minutes audio or video recordings about what life looks like in 2019-2020. Bowdoin College relaunched Bowdoin Stories as a platform where all members of the Bowdoin community can contribute stories about their experiences with COVID-19. Whitworth Digital Commons now hosts Coronavirus Conversations, a collection of interviews facilitated by Professor Aaron Putzke of Whitworth University (Spokane, WA) as he reaches out to people he knows across the nation, inviting honest conversation about how people are experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic.

As social media continues to share images of pandemics past, IRs begin to house archival images of the present pandemic. The University of the Pacific’s Gone Viral online gallery exhibition features artwork and accompanying artist statements that showcase student experiences, fears, stresses, coping mechanisms and hopes for the future. Pacific is also collecting community experiences with their Pacific Time Capsule 2020 archive. The University of Business and Technology in Kosovo has created a Mask Design image gallery consisting of work produced for a course in studio design. And Signs of the Times: Documenting COVID-19 Signs in Southern Maine is a crowd-sourced digital archive with the goal to document (via photograph) signs created in response to the pandemic in Southern Maine.

Institutional history and communication

The IR is also the perfect home for institutional history in the making and official communication about the pandemic. The New Jersey Institute of Technology Pandemic Recovery Plan (PRP) provides a framework through which NJIT can fulfill their mission in education, research, economic development, and engagement while ensuring the safety and well-being of their campus community.

The University of New Mexico’s Health Sciences Center distributes the UNM HSC Briefings, a daily compilation of analyses to inform New Mexico’s government, healthcare and research officials, as well as the public. Two similar archives of institutional communication can be found at the University of Northern Iowa’s UNI ScholarWorks and Augustana Digital Commons.

These collections are the tip to what will become a very deep iceberg of information about this global pandemic. Not only is important information and research being disseminated, showcased and consumed where needed, but the gathering of first-hand experiences will serve as important historical records and invaluable sources for future scholars of the COVID-19 pandemic.

If your IR has a COVID-19 virus collection to share with the Digital Commons Community, please post it on Twitter and be sure to include our handle, @bepress_DC, so we can share it forward. And, as always, your dedicated Consulting Services representative is available to guide you through creating and adding a new collection to your IR. Feel free to reach out to them via email or write to us at dc-support@bepress.com.

If you came across this blog and think that Digital Commons might be a solution for your institution, please contact us here.