This work scrutinised early research on the existing relationship between COVID-19, sustainability and development. The study had the scope of mapping scholarly directions and to investigate prospective advances. For this purpose, a bibliometric merged dataset including relevant searches on Coronavirus, Covid-19, Covid and Sustainability and Development has been investigated. On these bases, the paper drew selected short- and long-run policy implications to face the emergency and embrace sustainability and development schemes.
The bibliometric analyses exploited rendered an array of significative results: research on COVID-19 sharply increased with respect to past Coronavirus infections, underpinned by a considerable bulk of scholarship in sustainability and development subjects. Principal vectors pivoting COVID-19 publications include medical, technical, socio-economic and sustainability factors. As a result, this merged database allows exploring the linkages between the pandemic, the environment, health policy and the organisation useful in disease control.
Making use of both exploratory data analysis and multidimensional data analysis techniques, this research identified the different “core” of the literature. In particular, one can observe three foremost clusters which seem to classify the trend information in the literature: firstly, epidemiological, medical and organisational, and health policies useful in disease control; secondly, environmental and medical issues; lastly, socio-economic circumstances which can be prime drivers to the spread of the disease. These socio-economic factors can be analysed through a policy lens, and allow to speculate relevant research hypotheses. This fact would address the consolidated pulsing development policy request to prioritise infectious disease fight and public health support within the global development agenda (UN, 2015; WHO, 1996).
The bibliometric analysis performed synthesises the actual literature on COVID-19, development and sustainability. However, the analysis needs to be addressed in the identification of the array of policy solutions and alternatives proposed in the studies reviewed. For each issue within the conceptual maps, different trade-offs are identifiable by exploring the existing literature. Relevant examples of trade-offs detected from the conceptual maps are:
1. Social distancing with contact tracing vs total lockdown (see “disease control”).
2. Hospital admission vs monitoring at the home of the patients with not severe illness (“organization and management”).
3. Vaccine research vs. research on the treatment (“major clinical study”).
It shall be noticed that the proximity of the terms on the conceptual map indicates that these words appear on the same studies. Thus, the terms and problems are interconnected logically. For this reason, health policies are typically considered to “control the disease” on a context of “disease outbreak”. Similarly, health policies require an effort of “organization and management” to be planned.
This gives the chance to foresight different scenarios. As a tentative technique for policy analysis and assessment, each result significance can be weighted gauging its number of citations. This way, the ultimate research goal will not be solely the descriptive analysis of the emerging themes of literature, yielding a proper prescriptive analysis of optimal policies identified within the publications. This paves the way for further investigation possibilities.
Potential limitations of the work come from the fact that the majority of papers have been published in a limited set of journals/publishers. This implies that specific editorial policies of the journal/publisher are likely to have driven the diverse results –a higher number of publications can inflate the different keywords, for instance.
From the bibliometrics result, it is also clear the criticalness of the vulnerable. For instance, one of the key themes is gender (female\male in the conceptual map). The concept “female” is strongly related to the theme “health care system”, “food safety” and “risk factor”. It is interesting that the role of “health care personnel” has a crucial role for both the gender-specific “health care system” and “health care policy“(see Ruggeri et al., 2018). This argument implies a pivotal role for gender policies. It suggests a deep relationship between women in healthcare, that shall lead to an emphasis on germane sectorial policies and dynamics. One might think about salaries, quality of work and practices such as balanced life-work ratios – e.g. dedicated part-time work programmes. On the other hand, the term “risk factor” corroborates this paper’s findings on preparedness. Similarly, the word “food safety” links the importance of food within this multidimensional crisis, revealing intriguing gender dynamics.