We examined the extent to which the scientific workforce in different fields was engaged in publishing COVID-19-related papers. According to Scopus (data cut, August 1, 2021), 210 183 COVID-19-related publications included 720 801 unique authors, of which 360 005 authors had published at least five full papers in their career and 23 520 authors were at the top 2% of their scientific subfield based on a career-long composite citation indicator. The growth of COVID-19 authors was far more rapid and massive compared with cohorts of authors historically publishing on H1N1, Zika, Ebola, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. All 174 scientific subfields had some specialists who had published on COVID-19. In 109 of the 174 subfields of science, at least one in 10 active, influential (top 2% composite citation indicator) authors in the subfield had authored something on COVID-19. Fifty-two hyper-prolific authors had already at least 60 (and up to 227) COVID-19 publications each. Among the 300 authors with the highest composite citation indicator for their COVID-19 publications, most common countries were USA (<i>n</i> = 67), China (<i>n</i> = 52), UK (<i>n</i> = 32) and Italy (<i>n</i> = 18). The rapid and massive involvement of the scientific workforce in COVID-19-related work is unprecedented and creates opportunities and challenges. There is evidence for hyper-prolific productivity.
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