13 October 2021: Academics from across the University of Canberra’s five faculties have collaborated to release a study on the impact of COVID-19 on research projects.
The study found that the pandemic’s impacts could affect research productivity and quality for years to come, and that a majority of researchers felt pessimistic about the future of their research. The results, while unsurprising, will allow the University to provide support measures to those most affected.
Project lead Professor Jennie Scarvell said the impacts on research were wide-ranging and diverse.
“The change in circumstances impacts the range of researchers differently – in some cases, research productivity went up during lockdown,” Professor Scarvell said.
232 respondents from across the University were surveyed between November 2020 and February 2021.
“When the survey was completed, results showed that morale was low. Remember, this survey was completed at a time when we thought lockdown was over, and that we were over the worst,” Professor Scarvell said.
“While tired, researchers were looking forward to seeing their families for Christmas. If we ran this survey again now, imagine the impact on morale as we trudge through our second year of restrictions.”
Respondents with young children said working from home meant that domestic responsibilities had a negative impact on their research, and of those with school-aged children, two-thirds said that there had been a negative impact on the hours of work completed.
Many respondents also found that the pivot to online teaching had cost them time needed for their own research.
“Impacts really varied depending on the situation at home, caring responsibilities, the shift to online teaching and teaching responsibilities, and the kinds of research being conducted,” Professor Scarvell said.
As for the long-term impacts on research, 68 per cent of respondents anticipated a difficult couple of years following lockdowns, and a hampered ability to publish.
Other areas of concern included the ability to collaborate with colleagues, concerns for the research students they supervised, being able to complete research effectively, and the ability to conduct quality research.
As a result, the Associate Deans of Research at the University have made several recommendations to respond to these difficulties.
These include further investigating the diversity of impacts, developing qualitative measures of performance relative to opportunity and supporting researchers to catch up on ‘lost time’, ensuring a continual delivery of research excellence, and reviewing the data with other sources of data.
“We’re aiming to benchmark, compare, and share solutions,” Professor Scarvell said.
“We’ll repeat the survey in November to see what changes the year has brought, and how we can continue to support those researchers who have been affected by ongoing lockdowns.”
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