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Studies have found that the effects of a pandemic on scientists can be long-lasting.

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More than a year and a half after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the scientific community still feels the effects of highly devastating events that could continue for years to come.


Researchers’ productivity levels have almost returned to pre-pandemic highs, according to a new study led by the University of Northwestern, but scientists who did not pursue COVID-19-related research compared to 2019. The number of new projects started in 2020 has decreased by 36%. The new project suggests that the impact of a pandemic on science can last longer than generally imagined.

“On the surface, researchers seem to be as productive as they used to be,” said Dashun Wang of Northwestern University, who led the study. “But instead of creating new directions, they’re busy working on established topics, writing existing research, resurrecting legacy projects, and revisiting old data. It turns out that it applies to the scientific field of. Project. “

Researchers also found that the reduced performance of new projects was particularly noticeable for female and infant caregivers, which could exacerbate the already unequal impact of pandemics on these groups. ..

The study will be published in the journal on Tuesday (October 26) Nature Communications..

Wang is a professor of business and histology at the Kellogg School of Business, a professor of industrial engineering and business science at the Robert R. McCormick Institute, director of the Center for Scientific Innovation Science, and a core member of the Northwest Complex Systems Institute. I have.

“The impact may not be apparent for years.”

The current study is based on King’s study from April 2020, where he investigated the productivity levels of about 4,500 scientists in the United States and Europe. Was announced in Natural human behavior July 2020In research, scientists such as biologists and chemists who rely on laboratories to carry out their research spend more time studying than scientists in less well-equipped fields such as mathematics, statistics, and economics. It turns out that it is suffering from a significant decline. In addition, researchers with children under the age of 5 experienced a significant 17% reduction in study time compared to researchers in similar disciplines compared to those without young children.

Wang and his team revisited the work in January 2021 as vaccine development went smoothly and the end of the pandemic was imminent. They surveyed nearly 7,000 leading researchers based in the United States and Europe and analyzed the Dimensions database, the world’s largest research information dataset. ..

In a new study, Wang and his team asked the same questions about productivity, including new research publications, new submissions, new collaborations, and the number of new research projects launched before and during the pandemic, and overall. I asked a new question about my research activities and achievements. ..

Researchers working on COVID-19 started about the same number of new projects in 2019 as in 2020, but researchers working on non-COVID-19 experienced a significant decline. .. These researchers have shown that they typically start about three new projects a year and reduce to two new projects in 2020. The percentage of new co-authors of papers other than COVID-19 also decreased by 5%.

“In the early stages of the pandemic, scientists reported that the time spent on research dropped sharply,” Wang said. “These productivity levels are recovering and there is some optimism, but given the long time it takes for new research ideas to mature and be published, the decline in new projects is a pandemic. Suggests that the impact of may not appear in public records for years. “

Face-to-face interaction creates new ideas

Wang believes that this work emphasizes the importance of face-to-face interaction and collaboration, which is often an important channel for new ideas. He said the results could contribute to ongoing policy debates aimed at fostering social interaction, fostering new cooperation and resuming face-to-face activities.

“As a researcher myself, I often meet new collaborators at conferences and dinners,” Wang said. “I come up with new ideas during coffee chat and fly around with my colleagues. These interactions rarely happened during the pandemic.”

But even if campuses and laboratories are reopened, the king warns that the lives of researchers with young children will continue to be difficult. While many institutions have implemented policies such as extended tenure to assist parents and caregivers at the beginning of the pandemic, parents with young children continue to need assistance. Parents generally remain cautious, often prior to travel and face-to-face events, to protect their children until their children can be vaccinated. Children..

“Many institutions are evaluating short-term data and informing them of their resumption policy,” Wang said. “But these short-term metrics can mask the long-term effects of a pandemic. Children under the age of 12 remain unqualified for the vaccine, which has even more impact on scientists. .. infant.. At the same time, our findings suggest that short-term investments such as childcare support may bring long-term benefits. ”


Pandemics affect scientists with toddlers disproportionately


For more information:
Potential long-term impact of a pandemic on scientists, Nature Communications (2021). DOI: 10.1038 / s41467-021-26428-z

Quote: The impact of a pandemic on scientists can be long-lasting. The findings (October 26, 2021) were obtained from https://phys.org/news/2021-10-pandemic-effect-scientists.html on October 26, 2021.

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Studies have found that the effects of a pandemic on scientists can be long-lasting.

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