The year 2020 has imposed challenges on society and healthcare systems as never encountered for many decades: the word “COVID” will stick in our memories long after it (hopefully) has been controlled. The pandemic has been a tragedy in terms of lives lost, economic damage and the long term consequences to health that are only now being realised. We mourn with our readers the lost colleagues, family members, friends and loved ones. What is the role of a scientific journal in a situation such as this? From early in the pandemic the ERJ has played a key role in the mission of the European Respiratory Society to provide timely information and guidelines to clinicians and an outlet for important scientific research. We hope that the work published in the ERJ in the past year has helped to inform, educate and entertain our readers during the most challenging period of all of our professional lives.