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Long COVID: the lasting impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the scientific community


KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • The rate of new research projects initiated in 2020 decreased versus the start of the pandemic, disproportionally affecting female scientists and those with young children.
  • The amount of time spent on research has almost returned to
    pre-pandemic levels.

The ongoing, global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is well documented, but how has the scientific community been affected in the long term? Dr Jian Gao and colleagues surveyed almost 7,000 US- and European-based scientists in April 2020 and again in January 2021 to assess the long-term effects of the pandemic on their work.

The proportion of scientists not initiating a new research project tripled from 9% in 2019 to 27% in 2020. Although the impact was consistent across different scientific fields, the survey found that female scientists and those with young children were disproportionately affected, echoing previous reports that gender inequality has been exacerbated during the pandemic. A third of survey respondents worked on COVID-19-related research in 2020 and saw no change in pre-pandemic productivity, reflecting the widespread response to the pandemic within the scientific community.

How has this impact on research affected the publication output of scientists? Using the Dimensions dataset, Dr Gao and colleagues analysed rates of new co-authorships in 2019 versus 2020. Unsurprisingly, new co-authorships on COVID-19-related papers increased by 40%. Conversely, new co-authorships on non-COVID-19-related papers decreased by around 5%. The latest figures also suggest the time scientists are spending on research is returning to normal, with only minor differences in total work time in 2021 versus pre-pandemic, compared with the sharp decline reported in 2020.

It is clear from this survey that scientists are still being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although the impact of the pandemic appears to have lessened over time, it is clear from this survey that scientists are still being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with fewer new research projects being initiated. As these effects are likely to be long-lasting, action from institutional leaders and funders is needed to avoid serious effects on research.

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Has your work been impacted in the long-term by the pandemic?

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