Impact of COVID-19: How has the pandemic affected how we do science?

Falling Walls Circle Tables are lending the spotlight to world-leading scientists, science strategists and policy-makers from academia, business and politics discuss how we can apply science, research and innovation to get the world moving again.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted every aspect of society, and science is no exception. In this Falling Walls Circle Table, the panellists explore the impact of COVID-19 on research, while it is simultaneously changing the lives of researchers.

Unsurprisingly, the events of 2020 led to an explosion of research focused on the impact of COVID-19. In an effort to get findings out as quickly as possible, scientists have turned increasingly to preprint servers. These allow researchers to share studies before they have been peer reviewed, but challenge the traditional model of scientific publishing.

As Kyle Myers explains, “No two scientists have really experienced the pandemic in the same way.” Disciplines relying on labs and fieldwork have seen substantially reduced output. Households with children have faced considerable challenges, and female scientists have seen the biggest decreases in productivity. Governments may push for a broad recovery for research, which could fail to address these varied experiences.

However, the pandemic has offered some opportunities for research and researchers. Young scientists have found it easier to attend conferences, now that travel barriers are removed.  For members of the public, the pandemic has boosted engagement in science.  And the panel hopes this renewed interest makes the case for continued investment.  Indeed the speed with which research on the impact of COVID-19 has adapted to the pandemic makes a strong case for the inherent value of ‘blue skies research’.