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Survey finds ‘severe’ pandemic impact on research

  

Research Professional News poll finds concerns over research, funding, careers and stress abound

Research activities have been widely interrupted as a result of Covid-19 crisis, with fieldwork and international cooperation especially hit, according to respondents to a Research Professional News survey.

More than 300 readers across the UK answered questions on their jobs, career prospects and research funding, with over 100 leaving comments with further thoughts on the situation.

Many said universities should not have reopened for face-to-face teaching this year, and feared that focus on teaching has taken resources away from research.

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“We should have gone fully virtual for this academic year,” an academic at a Russell Group university said, echoing others who fear that the return to campus could leave them exposed to risk of infection.

“Universities should not be open,” said an academic at a Scottish university. “This is a political mishandling across the board.”

Spreading fears

Around a third of respondents worried about Covid-19 spreading among staff given students’ return to campuses, and 78 per cent believe their facilities cannot be made ‘Covid-19 secure’.

Some have said they felt pressured to return, and several feared infections would spread from student halls.

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“There is increasing pressure on us to do face to face teaching even when it’s not really necessary or safe,” said a staffer at a university in the south of England.

An academic at a Scottish university said: “The impact on research has been severe and we are struggling to prioritise this given the urgency of meeting student needs on a weekly basis. Plus, fieldwork and international work has become extremely challenging, if not impossible.”

Workload woes

Dealing with Covid has caused a “massive amount of administrative workload” which has been at the expense of dealing with scientific matters, said one Russel Group academic. “The impact will be deep and for many years.”

Many others also highlighted rising workloads and fears over jobs and funding for both academics and professional staff.

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Funding pressures

“The staff workload is unsustainable, the institutions’ expectations on what staff should be able to do are going through the roof and I foresee huge problems to arise,” said an academic at Scottish university.

Another Scottish academic added: “The stress on staff in unbearable—many breaking—no holidays, working ‘till early hours of morning every day….It’s going to break! REF a huge load on top of all of this it’s just crazy.”

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For more on the Research Professional News survey, see Covid-19 survey: The pandemic’s impact on R&D.