Pandemic widened gender and racial gaps for researchers' productivity

Researchers were hit hard by the pandemic, as both productivity and mental health declined among the group. Women and people of color were affected more than others, according to new surveys, Nature reported Nov. 9.  

The first survey polled nearly 7,000 principal investigators in April 2020 and January 2021 and found that scientists were spending significantly less time on projects. Researchers working on non-COVID-19 related projects saw their submission rate drop 15 percent during 2020 and also launched much fewer new projects, with a 26 percent decrease.

Another study in Brazil showed that the decline in productivity was compounded if researchers were either mothers or scientists of color. Researchers who are also Black mothers submitted less than half the papers they planned to. 

Mental health also took a hit. A separate study of 2,000 staff at higher education institutions showed that two-thirds of staff reported feeling emotionally drained at least once a week.

"If people are facing so much anxiety and stress and their mental health is not good, it’s not the ideal circumstance to be dreaming up one’s most innovative, high-impact, rigorous research-study designs for the next year," Reshma Jagsi, MD, an oncologist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, told Nature.


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