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Researchers campaigning against ‘pandemic bias’ in academia

Campaigners calling for academics least affected by Covid-19 to carry more of the burden

Researchers concerned about the unequal impacts of Covid-19 on academic careers have started a social media campaign to give a voice to those hit hardest, and seek extra support from those least affected.

They are using the hashtag #StopPandemicBias to draw attention to the pandemic’s disproportionate effects on academics who are vulnerable, who are unable to access necessary resources or who must juggle academic duties with care-giving responsibilities—setbacks the campaign founders said pose “a mortal threat to the careers of many”.

“Being unaffected by Covid-19 is a new privilege,” said Ulrike Endesfelder, a physicist at the Max Planck Institute and Carnegie Mellon University in the United States and one of the researchers behind the campaign.

She was the corresponding author on a letter on pandemic bias published in the journal Nature on 28 July, co-authored by Dirk Pflüger of the University of Stuttgart and Timo de Wolff of Technische Universität Braunschweig, both in Germany.

“The disadvantaged are among both the applicants for positions, grants and publications and their selecting peers, and their voices currently are not heard in our community,” Endesfelder said in an article published by Carnegie Mellon University, where she was due to move her lab in the spring—something she has still been unable to do because of the pandemic.

The campaigners want less-affected researchers to shoulder more of the administrative burden, for instance by reviewing more articles and grants and taking over teaching responsibilities for their colleagues. They are calling on institutions and funders to “reconsider upcoming deadlines and criteria to create more leniency” to academics most impacted by Covid-19.