Study warns pandemic’s impact on science ‘could be long lasting’

MADRID, October 26 (European press) –

More than a year and a half after the COVID-19 pandemic began, the effects of this deeply disturbing event are still being felt by the scientific community, perhaps for many years, warns a new study led by Northwestern University. United).

This work, published in ‘Nature Communications’, shows that although researchers’ productivity levels were mostly back to their pre-pandemic levels, scientists who did not conduct research related to COVID-19 started out 36 percent lower. %. Projects in 2020 compared to 2019.

This dramatic drop in new projects suggests that the pandemic’s impact on science may be more lasting than is usually imagined.

On the surface, researchers seem to be as productive as they once were. But instead of creating new directions, they are busy working on established issues, writing current research, reviving old projects, or revising old data. We have found this to be so. In many Scientific majors: No field is immune from reducing the number of projects,” commented the business leader, Dashun Wang.

The researchers also found that the decline in implementation of new projects is particularly pronounced for women and caregivers of young children, which may exacerbate the already unequal effects of the pandemic on these groups.

The effect may take years to appear

The study is based on Wang’s work in April 2020, surveying nearly 4,500 scientists from the United States and Europe about their productivity levels. The study, published in the journal Nature Human Behavior in July 2020, found that scientists, such as biologists and chemists, who relied on laboratories to conduct their research, experienced sharply reduced research hours compared to scientists in fields that required less equipment. such as mathematics, statistics, and economics.

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In addition, researchers with children five years of age or younger experienced a 17 percent greater reduction in research hours, compared to researchers in similar fields but without young children.

With a vaccine developing in full swing and a potential end to the pandemic looming, Wang and his team re-analyzed the work in January 2021. They surveyed nearly 7,000 lead researchers from the United States and Europe and analyzed the database. Dimensions, the world’s largest data set for research information.

In the new survey, Wang and his team asked the same questions about productivity, as well as new questions about performance and overall research activity, including the number of new research publications, new presentations, new collaborations, and new research projects. and during the pandemic.

Although researchers doing work related to COVID-19 started roughly the same number of new projects in 2019 as in 2020, researchers doing work not related to COVID-19 saw a significant decline. These researchers indicated that they typically start about three new projects per year, down to two new projects during 2020. The rate of new co-authoring of works not related to COVID-19 has also decreased by 5 percent.

“During the initial phase of the epidemic, scientists reported a sharp drop in time spent on research. These productivity levels have recovered, indicating some optimism. However, given the long gestation time of a novel as research ideas mature and disseminate, the decline in new projects suggests indicates that the impact of the epidemic may not appear in the publication record for years,” explains Wang.

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The researcher believes that this work underscores the importance of face-to-face interactions and collaboration, which are often important channels for new ideas. “As a researcher, I often meet new collaborators at conferences and dinner parties. I generate new ideas during coffee conversations, and I echo ideas with colleagues. These interactions haven’t occurred much during the pandemic,” says Wang.

But even when universities and labs reopen, Wang warns that life will still be tough for researchers with young children. Although many institutions have implemented measures to help parents and caregivers at the start of the pandemic, parents with young children still need support.

Until children are vaccinated, parents tend to be vigilant—often foregoing travel and personal events—to protect their children.

“Many institutions are evaluating short-term data for their reopening policies. However, these short-term measurements may mask the long-term effects of the pandemic. Children under 12 remain unvaccinated, which will have other implications for scientists with young children At the same time, our findings also suggest that short-term investments, such as childcare support, can lead to long-term benefits,” says Wang.

Aileen Morales

"Beer nerd. Food fanatic. Alcohol scholar. Tv practitioner. Writer. Troublemaker. Falls down a lot."

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