You may be aware, since the start of the pandemic, the SDRC have been communicating with members on the impact of Covid on dementia research. At the start of lockdown, we ran a survey to find out how the pandemic has affected ECRs. From this we created a report, which you can read here. Using the feedback, we created resources to support ECRs during COVID.
In July 2020, we ran a second survey to gain insight into further or sustained impact of Covid on dementia research. We also wanted to find out how helpful our ECR members have found our ECR Resources.
Thank you to everyone who responded to this survey. We had people respond across 13 institutions and representation from each SDRC research theme. We have now looked at these responses of the survey on impact of COVID on dementia research for ECRs. Please see the results below.
Projects on Hold
This survey shows that 44% of respondents have projects on hold due to COVID, which is a reduction from 70% in our first survey.
For Fundamental Science researchers at least, this may be because labs across the country are starting to open again. However, even among those in labs that are starting to reopen, many respondents told us about challenges at work with social distancing and scheduling time in the lab.
Overall, it seems the hardest hit are those that require human participants for their studies. Government restrictions are still preventing many from restarting data collection. For example those who want to conduct in-person interviews/focus groups and care home research still face delays. However, 28% of respondents are now working on COVID-related research, compared to 14% in the previous survey. This shows even if some research is on hold, many ECRs are able to find alterative work.
Even among those that are able to continue to work from home, there are still challenges. Many respondents told us about the psychological impacts that lockdown are having on them. They are, at times, struggling to motivate themselves while working from home. Researchers also miss the social aspect of being in an office and not having the informal peer support of being around colleagues. In addition, some are feeling isolated from their supervisors, and not knowing who to go to if they have problems.
Whether respondents are back working or not, 35% of respondents stated they will require an extension to complete current research projects. This is compared to our March survey, where 48.3% thought they would need an extension to complete their research. For many, the experience depends on both what type of research they are doing and what stage they are at in their current project. Of those who did not think they would require an extension, a signifiant number need to change their research in some way.
Impact on Grant Applications
It seems that since the last survey, COVID is starting to have a major impact on grant applications. Our first survey in March stated that 25% of respondents had grant applications affected by COVID, compared to 45% in our July survey.
Our respondents have told us that many funding bodies have suspended or cancelled funding calls, at least temporarily. This is of course creating concerns for job security and career progression. In our March Survey, 32% of respondents felt their job security or career progression may be affected by COVID. Now this has increased to 50%. Respondents have cited their careers being impacted in other ways, such as lacking the events and opportunities to network. Internships have also been cancelled which may have an impact on their experience as a researcher.
Another concern for us is that the challenges discussed above have led to a number of respondents telling us they are considering leaving or have applied for positions outside of academia.
In this survey we asked respondents to tell us if they have made use of any of the ECR resources and whether they were useful.
On a score 1-5, with 1 being not useful at all and 5 being very useful, those that used an ECR Resource scored it 4.3, on average. Respondents highlighted as well as the practical advice, they also appreciated knowing we were there for them.
As far as recomendations to improve, respondents requested more peer to peer support such as opportunities for ECRs to connect with each other, more practical support and advice
Actions we will take
The results of our July 2020 ECR survey have further shown us the significant impact being felt by the pandemic. And this impact is not short term. This is taking place across disciplines and institutions throughout the country.
The SDRC will continue to raise awareness of the impact of COVID on research at the highest levels, and co-ordinate our activity based on your feedback. We are committed to support all researchers and we are always listening. If you have any feedback, or if you have any suggestions at any time of actions the SDRC can take, please get in touch. Finally don’t forget to follow us on Twitter to be first to find out what we are up to.