May, 15 2020

The Effect of COVID-19 on Research Productivity

Many research labs have shut down because of the COVID-19 virus except the ones dealing with infectious disease. It is worth asking how that has affected research productivity.


Many research labs have shut down because of the COVID-19 virus except the ones dealing with infectious disease. It is worth asking how that has affected research productivity.

This worldwide situation has reshaped different research directions and provided many fields with a lot of interesting research topics to tackle. These are not only in the expected fields of medicine and biology but also in other areas ranging from the humanities and social sciences to finance and business management. The amount of data that the virus is generating is opening up the possibility to experiment and investigate different models and simulations in various fields:

  • Social perspective (crowd control in pandemics)
  • Behavioral sciences (the behavior of individuals under quarantine)
  • Psychology (the effect of news on confined people)
  • Mass communication (coverage and news delivery during a pandemic)
  • Engineering (civil engineering and the construction of deployable health care systems like hospitals or small clinics, mate rial sciences research on materials to which the virus adheres least, computer engineering concerning robots dealing with patients to avoid direct contact)
  • Computer science (testing and detection of the virus through computer software and image processing)
  • Finance and business (especially in studying the impact of the pandemic on the current state of the economy and the expectations for the coming few years)
  • Mathematics and statistics (modeling the evolution and the progress of the virus)

In fact, there has already been a rush in publications related to this situation. For instance, the preprint platform Arxiv, run by Cornell University, announced a new COVID-19 quick search section and links to the papers dealing with COVID-19. This includes medRxiv, the preprint server for Health Sciences, and bioRxiv, its Biology counterpart. Many research groups are eager to start analyzing this unique and extensive data in order either to provide a clearer picture on the situation or to predict and prevent similar occurrences.

The COVID-19 situation has led to the cancellation of numerous conferences and classical weekly research meetings. To overcome that, many conference organizers have rescheduled an online version of some of their sessions, such as the American Mathematical Society (AMS) meeting. Universities and research groups have opted for weekly online seminars using Zoom in many cases.

AURAK is successfully coping with this situation, and also heading in this direction by holding a virtual Faculty Research Colloquium. The Office of Research and Community Service discussed the technical aspects of such gatherings, and relaunched the Faculty Research Colloquium in its virtual format with a presentation by Prof. Steven Zani titled “COVID-19 in the Time of Zombies: How Literature and Film Studies Can Help You Understand a Global Pandemic”.

Exactly how disruptive or productive the COVID-19 situation proves to be for academic research has yet to become clear. But one can say for sure that this worldwide pandemic is an eye opener for industry and governments on the importance of research. This will definitely be reflected in the post-pandemic strategic plans of various institutions where one expects to see an increase in research funding.

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