It’s a good idea to share Covid-19 research information with the general public openly, and now more than ever, it’s vital to share this information as quickly and efficiently as possible. By openly sharing information, scientists can develop innovative treatments and vaccines and also respond promptly to future strains or outbreaks.
Although that’s the ideal situation, we will discuss some of Covid-19 information sharing and research gathering limitations. We will talk about the main effects on academic publishing, field research and its repercussions, Open Science and the fight against Covid-19, and the future of academic publishing in the wake of the pandemic.
The Main Effects of Covid-19 on Academic Publishing
Epidemics have an uncanny ability to shine a spotlight on weak spots in research, from understanding a disease to how scientists and researchers communicate. At least, that’s what we’ve seen from past epidemics. The Covid-19 pandemic, like its predecessors, cast light on uncomfortable truths, ranging from societal inequalities to insignificant investments in public health and waste from clinical trials, to name a few. Scientific research has not been so broadly disrupted since the second World War. At its peak, Covid-19 caused universities to close, laboratories to only focus on essential experiments, and fieldwork to get canceled.
However, despite these and other issues, and although it’s been difficult for many communities and countries with large outbreaks, international collaborations flourished. Researchers began to share their data more openly, while almost all articles related to Covid-19 are free to read. Research culture also shifted. Instead of prioritizing productivity, broader issues such as work-life balance were discussed, possibly becoming a continuing trend even after the pandemic.
How are researchers navigating these new waters?
Suddenly forced to work from home, researchers found their lives completely changed. Resources once available, such as libraries, were limited. Students found themselves without crucial data from fieldwork or access to the lab they needed to complete their degrees. Travel shutdowns also made searching for a job within the research community (and beyond) much more difficult.
With the pandemic not yet over, the research community has learned to adapt to new norms and focus on what they can do. For instance, the United Nation’s much-anticipated climate summit was delayed to the end of 2021 because of previous travel restrictions, but several governments strengthened their climate commitments in the meantime.
Field Research and Covid-19 - The Repercussions
Field research is an area much affected by Covid-19. Until the pandemic, many disciplines relied heavily on field research. Not carrying out this fieldwork has forced many academics to rethink their data collection methods, some changing them altogether. This has led to many studies and research projects being put on hold or disposed of entirely, some of which cannot be revisited in the near future.
It is especially difficult for early career researchers, many already working under challenging conditions because of little experience with limited access to funding, forcing them to look into new methods, data, and questions. Not to mention that the pandemic could mean the end of dissertation projects for many doctoral candidates.
Before the pandemic, due to authorities or companies interested in stopping research on critical issues, researchers routinely had trouble accessing field sites if they were studying topics such as:
- environmental pollution,
- protest movements,
- human rights issues and violations.
Now, the fear is that governments will use related pandemic travel and visa restrictions to restrict access to independent researchers. The information gained through field research regularly informs political decision-making and debate. So nearly stopping all fieldwork will therefore severely damage discussions around development, security, and foreign policy.
What are some new data collection tools and methods?
The limitations have affected research productivity across the board, but the research community explores new data collection and tools to combat limitations. Ethnography on the ground is replaced with ethnography for online communities, while online interviews and focus group discussions take place instead of in-person meetings or travel to a field site.
Supervisors and funders should offer their scholars who rely on fieldwork a considerable amount of time to refocus their projects. Lobbying for additional funding or contract extensions should also be a priority for experienced scholars and funders. For the next few years, depending on new mutations, travel warnings, and risks associated with Covid-19, universities will likely be expected to discourage or ban fieldwork altogether to certain areas. But instead, universities and new disciplinary standards are pushing for greater transparency in fieldwork-based data collection efforts.
Open Science and The Fight Against Covid-19
Fieldwork remains indispensable in scientific progress and advancement. So while universities push for greater transparency, administrators and editors need to ensure that any new standards do not become another hurdle for field researchers. Instead, they can make challenging research projects both safe and possible for scholars.
Similarly, UNESCO realizes the importance and value of Open Solutions; therefore, Open Access to scientific information and Open Data facilitate faster and better research. UNESCO builds upon its existing mandate of ensuring universal access to information to support various professional organizations with several data collection tools and encourages various initiatives to tap into the power of Open Solutions to combat Covid-19. To read about more initiatives and Open Access to Covid-19 data, read our data sharing and Covid-19 article.
The Future of Academic Publishing in the Wake of Covid-19
Covid-19 has made open publishing relevant, as you can see. Pre-prints allow researchers to post studies that have not undergone scientific peer-review for more timely, open, and inclusive access to new science. This is great, in theory. Unfortunately, pre-prints of Covid-19 research can instead lead the general public and the media to believe that the work has been professionally vetted before publication, ultimately leading to misinformation. Therefore, there is an urgent need for rapid, transparent peer-review and a discussion on the harmful effects of unreviewed publishing. However, the field of academic publishing will require significant financial support to finalize these changes.
Thankfully, innovations such as Rapid Reviews: COVID-19 (RR:C19) allow for a rigorous, transparent peer-review before publication. It disposes of misrepresentations and disinformation to accelerate validated science so that researchers, clinicians, and policymakers can make evidence-based, sound decisions.
Orvium, as well, is a platform for rapid reviews across all fields of science, allowing you to collaborate with like-minded individuals to partake in transparent peer-review. Scholars can form their own communities, whether it’s a Covid-19 community, a Cancer Research community, or a Behavioral Psychology community.
In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, will researchers adapt or revise what they study and how they work, potentially accelerating changes already made thus far, or will they simply want to forget all about the pandemic? Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait decades to see, but the scientific community is already starting to shape these answers now.
We talked about the main effects of Covid-19 on academic publishing, the repercussions of fieldwork regarding the pandemic, Open Science and the fight against the pandemic, and the future of publishing in the wake of Covid-19. Alongside the Open Access advancements and innovations mentioned, another excellent option for accelerating science and encouraging access to peer-reviewed papers is our Open Access platform Orvium.