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Nature Postdoc survey hints at long-term impact of pandemic on the development of science

First international postdoc survey from Nature shows devastating impact of pandemic on postdoctoral-researcher career path and the development of research  and lab outputs

London 9th September 2020

Data from Nature’s first-ever international postdoctoral survey illustrates the devastating impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had, and continues to have, on the longer-term development of scientific research, the career paths and mental well-being of postdoctoral researchers.

In an early analysis of the survey’s COVID-19 specific questions (1), four key areas were highlighted as having been directly and  negatively impacted by the pandemic:

  • Career development – job prospects and mental well-being
  • Lab practice – experiments and collation of research
  • Peer on peer relationships and those with supervisors
  • Funding and the completion of research

Of the 7670 postdoctoral researchers surveyed around the world, over half (61%) of respondents indicated that the pandemic has negatively impacted their career prospects. This was particularly widespread in South America (70%), North/Central America (68%) and Australasia (68%), where the respective percentage of respondents said their careers had already suffered with some participants unable to obtain grants or jobs. Perceived impacts, however, did vary by area of study with Chemistry (68%), Ecology and Evolution (67%) and Biomedicine (60%), being reported as the most highly impacted areas of research. 

Beyond career impact, the survey also illustrated the detrimental impact on the ability to be able to conduct and share research.  Eight out of 10 postdoctoral researchers indicated that the pandemic has hampered their ability to conduct experiments.  59% of respondents reported trouble discussing ideas with peers, and 57% indicated that the pandemic had made it harder to share research findings. Added to the 61% who said that their funding had not been extended and the 19% who have said that it is still uncertain whether theirs will be, the survey paints a challenging picture for the future development, support and collaboration within the lab and across research output.

Speaking of the survey, Managing Editor Careers and Supplements David Payne commented

“The results of this survey throw a sharp focus on the impact that COVID-19 has had not only on the ability to be able to conduct and collaborate on research, but also the risks that it continues to pose for funding and support. With the very real threat to postdoctoral career paths, and the wider impact on the long-term development of academic and lab outputs, a challenging picture for future science is emerging at a time when the value of research and global collaboration has become only too apparent. 

The survey, however, also goes some way to  demonstrate the versatility of postdoctoral scientists  and  research. The  stats make a strong case for the need to continue to advance open science and data as a way to continue international academic development at a time when peer to peer engagement and physical collaboration in labs is restricted - something which we at Nature continue to both advocate for and drive forwards. 

Our aim with this survey is to shine a spotlight on the areas which we, as a community, need to better address in order to support the sustainability of science and the well-being of the researchers who conduct it as we move forwards.”

The survey, created in concert with Shift Learning, a market-research company based in London, was advertised on nature.com, in Springer Nature digital products and through email campaigns. It was offered in English, Chinese, Spanish, French and Portuguese. The data set relating to the COVID-19 responses is available at 10.6084/m9.figshare.1290625.  The full results are currently being analysed and will be released in November.

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 (1) The data set relating to the COVID-19 responses is available at https://figshare.com/s/eeb0126760b2d19338c5. The full results are currently being analysed and will be released in November.

About Springer Nature

For over 175 years Springer Nature has been advancing discovery by providing the best possible service to the whole research community. We help researchers uncover new ideas, make sure all the research we publish is significant, robust and stands up to objective scrutiny, that it reaches all relevant audiences in the best possible format, and can be discovered, accessed, used, re-used and shared. We support librarians and institutions with innovations in technology and data; and provide quality publishing support to societies. 

As a research publisher, Springer Nature is home to trusted brands including Springer, Nature Research, BMC, Palgrave Macmillan and Scientific American. For more information, please visit springernature.com and @SpringerNature

About Shift Learning

Winner of an Education Investor Award 2019, Shift Learning is a leading market research consultancy with a passion for the education and learning sector.

We help some of the most exciting and successful organisations in the sector make decisions based on robust evidence and insight. https://www.shift-learning.co.uk/

Contact

Katie Baker| Head of Communications - Publishing and Research Services susie.winter@springernature.com

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