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Grant ‘repurposing’ towards Covid-19 widespread

Survey finds 43% of researchers using or likely to use existing funding to study coronavirus

More than a third of researchers have either repurposed pre-pandemic grants to study Covid-19 or expect to do so, according to preliminary findings of a survey of academic life during the outbreak.

Out of 3,436 researchers polled for publishing company Springer Nature, 43 per cent said they have already or are likely to repurpose their grants to some extent for Covid-19 research.

Grace Baynes, vice-president of data and new product development at Springer Nature, and Mark Hahnel, CEO of Figshare, say the survey also shows an increase in pre-print publication, faster peer review and more collaboration and data sharing—changes that have “demonstrated the incredibly responsive nature of our sector, under immense pressure”.

Preliminary results of the survey, conducted between 24 May and 18 June, were released on 7 August.

Some 32 per cent of academic researchers—and 26 per cent of those in non-academic settings—said their research has been “extremely” or “very” affected by Covid-19.

Chemists were most hit, with 47 per cent affected, compared with 39 per cent of biologists and 36 per cent of medical researchers and materials scientists. Those working in humanities and social sciences were least affected by the pandemic, with only 20 per cent reporting an impact.

Baynes and Hahnel say there is evidence of positive changes during the pandemic, such as greater collaboration between researchers. But they also noted concerns over the fact that 65 per cent of respondents expect to reuse their own data. If this is not done openly and transparently it “could fuel academic misconduct” such as “salami slicing” data up between multiple papers.