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’.

Adrian J. Carter’s career at Boehringer Ingelheim spans almost 35 years including 8 years as head of neuropharmacology. Adrian subsequently spent 10 years in business development where he led the negotiations for several large licensing collaborations, co-commercialization deals, and patent agreements. Since 2011, he has been vice president and global head of Discovery Research Coordination where he is responsible for guiding research policy, leading strategic research initiatives, and steering operational themes. He is also a member of the Discovery Research Leadership Committee. Adrian represents Boehringer Ingelheim on the board of trustees for the Structural Genomics Consortium (SGC) and the Scientific and Medical Institute (NMI), as well as being vice chairperson of the Research and Innovation Strategies (RIS) Group of EFPIA and a member of the strategic advisory board of the Biotech Cluster Rhein-Neckar (BioRN).

Dr. Julie Maxton CBE is the Executive Director of the Royal Society, the first woman in 350 years to hold the post. Before taking up her position at the Royal Society Julie was Registrar at the University of Oxford, the first woman in 550 years in the role. She is an Honorary Fellow of University College Oxford, a Bencher of the Middle Temple, a Freeman of the Goldsmith’s Company, and a Board member of Engineering UK, the Charities Aid Foundation, Haberdasher Aske’s School and of the International Advisory Board of the Blavatnik School of Governance at Oxford University. Originally trained as a barrister at the Middle Temple, Julie combined a career as a practising lawyer with that of an academic.

Prof. Dr. Veronika von Messling is Directorate-General of the Life Science Division at the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. She obtained her veterinary degree and her doctorate degree in veterinary virology from the Veterinary School Hannover, Germany. After postdoctoral training at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, she was Assistant Professor at INRS-Institut Armand-Frappier in Laval, QC, and then Associate Professor at Duke-NUS Medical School, Singapore, before becoming Director of the Veterinary Division at Paul-Ehrlich-Institute, the German Federal Institute of Vaccines and Biomedicines, in Langen, Germany. Her expertise lies in the development of novel prophylactic and therapeutic strategies against infectious diseases.

Kyle Myers is an assistant professor of business administration in the Technology and Operations Management unit at the Harvard Business School. His research revolves around the economics of innovation and lies at the intersection of science, business, and public policy. He has received funding from the Kauffman Foundation, the Sloan Foundation, and the National Bureau of Economic Research. Professor Myers holds a Ph.D. from the Wharton School’s Department of Health Care Management and Economics. He has a M.S. in Health Policy and Management and a B.S. in Biology from Penn State University. Prior to joining the Harvard Business School, he was a post-doctoral fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research and worked at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Daniel Hook is CEO of Digital Science. He has been involved in research information management for over a decade and has been helped to position Digital Science as a key infrastructure provider across research over the last few years. He is a regular co-author of Digital Science’s analysis reports. Daniel is a mathematical physicist by training, and is affiliated with Imperial College London, Washington University in St Louis and the University of Cambridge. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Physics and serves on the ORCID board.

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