The impact of COVID-19 on the CSD

Since a pandemic was declared nearly 6 months ago we have been closely monitoring what impact this has had for our users, depositors and the Cambridge Structural Database (CSD). We thought it was about time we shared some of our observations and hopefully give you some positive news for a change.

Sadly, the news this year has been filled with stories about the devasting impact of COVID-19 and the current pandemic has affected us all. Our hearts go out to everyone that has experienced first-hand the impact of the virus. At the CCDC we are lucky that we are able to work from home and still provide all our usual support, data and software. We know from conversations that many of you have been working from home too. A lot of you have had to shut down laboratories and hundreds of diffractometers have been temporarily out of action. While it has been encouraging to hear stories of labs starting to open again, we know this must have had a significant impact on scientific research. So, has this changed the amount and type of data we are able to make available through the CSD?

 

Charts to show the number of structures deposited per week from 6 different countries since the start of 2020. The scale of the y axis varies per country.

 

The number of structures published through the CSD between Jan-Jul last year was 35,769 compared to 34,905 this year. Monthly numbers never track perfectly so it is too early in the year to know if this small difference is significant. Usually structures are deposited a few months before they are published so tracking deposited structures could be more insightful. Thankfully when we look at these numbers the differences are even smaller. The number of structures deposited last year from Jan-Jun was 38,248 compared to 38,328 this year. With some universities and laboratories closed a difference of less than 100 structures is remarkable! One of the reasons for this may be because not every structure is deposited or published immediately after collection and refinement. This means that some crystallographers have had an opportunity to finish and share recently captured or long forgotten data. In total nearly 3,000 structures have been shared directly through the CSD in 2020. The continued rise in CSD Communications this year has certainly helped boost the amount of data being shared through the CSD. 

 

 

Chart to show the growth of CSD Communications in the CSD

 

To help support crystallographers and to ensure the continued growth of data available through the CSD we have had a summer initiative to type up and convert non-electronic data. If you would like help to share some of your historic data just drop us an email on deposit@ccdc.cam.ac.uk to find out more.

At the CCDC alongside helping you to share your lovely data we have been monitoring molecules of interest in the fight against COVID-19. To ensure these molecules are easily accessible across our platforms any appropriate CSD entry has been updated and enhanced with additional information and tagged with COVID-19. We have also launched a new CSD COVID-19 subset in our released database so users can more easily access this new collection and use it as a basis for their research. For more information see our recent article on Drugs, pesticides and COVID-19 drug subsets.

We have seen that COVID-19 has changed which structures are most looked at in the CSD and unsurprisingly structures related to COVID-19 research are now hugely popular. For example, if we look at the number of views and downloads of CSD entry DEXMET11, a structure of dexamethasone, since 2013 (when our current logs started) 57% of them are from 2020. It is a similar but even more dramatic story for CSD entry ZARNAK, a Remdesivir structure published in 2017, which had 99% of views/downloads happening this year.

An image of CSD entry DEXMET11, a structure of dexamethasone

 
It has been reassuring to discover that despite the huge impact COVID-19 has on the world one thing has remained steady – the growth of the CSD. We know that we will need to continually find new ways to support our users and depositors and the battle isn’t over but you should all be proud that despite everything going on in the world you haven’t let it impact the amount of scientific data you have shared! At the CCDC we are hopeful that the wealth of knowledge contained in the CSD could play its part in helping to halt this pandemic. Ensuring your structural data is freely accessible, up to date, fully curated and marked up with COVID-19 information is just one of the things we are doing to help the amazing scientists worldwide that are working to find a vaccine or new treatment.

We hope you are managing to stay safe and well in these difficult times, we look forward to helping you share more of your structures worldwide and to seeing the new insights you are able to gain from these valuable structures.