Quantifying the Immediate Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Scientists

39 Pages Posted: 8 Jun 2020

See all articles by Kyle Myers

Kyle Myers

Harvard University - Technology & Operations Management Unit

Wei Yang Tham

Harvard University - Business School (HBS)

Yian Yin

Northwestern University - Department of Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences

Nina Cohodes

Laboratory for Innovation Science at Harvard

Jerry G. Thursby

Emory University - Department of Economics; Georgia Institute of Technology - Scheller College of Business

Marie Thursby

Georgia Institute of Technology - Scheller College of Business

Peter Schiffer

Yale University

Joseph Walsh

Northwestern University

Karim R. Lakhani

Harvard Business School - Technology and Operations Management Group; Harvard Institute for Quantitative Social Science; Harvard University - Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society

Dashun Wang

Northwestern University - Northwestern Institute for Complex Systems (NICO)

Date Written: May 22, 2020

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly disrupted the scientific enterprise, but we lack empirical evidence on the nature and magnitude of these disruptions. Here we report the results of a survey of approximately 4,500 Principal Investigators (PIs) at U.S.- and Europe- based research institutions. Distributed in mid-April 2020, the survey solicited information about how scientists’ work changed from the onset of the pandemic, how their research output might be affected in the near future, and a wide range of individuals’ characteristics. Scientists report a sharp decline in time spent on research on average, but there is substantial heterogeneity with a significant share reporting no change or even increases. Some of this heterogeneity is due to field-specific differences, with laboratory-based fields being the most negatively affected, and some is due to gender, with female scientists reporting larger declines. However, among the individuals’ characteristics examined, the largest disruptions are connected to a usually unobserved dimension: childcare. Reporting a young dependent is associated with declines similar in magnitude to those reported by the laboratory-based fields and can account for a significant fraction of gender differences. Amidst scarce evidence about the role of parenting in scientists’ work, these results highlight the fundamental and heterogeneous ways this pandemic is affecting the scientific workforce, and may have broad relevance for shaping responses to the pandemic’s effect on science and beyond.

Note: Funding: This work is supported by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research under award number FA9550-19-1-0354, National Science Foundation SBE 1829344, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation G-2019-12485 and G-2020-13873.

Conflict of Interest: The authors declare no competing interests.

Ethical Approval: The study protocol has been approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) from Harvard University and Northwestern University. Informed consent was obtained from all participants.

Keywords: COVID-19, research productivity, science of science

JEL Classification: 030, 031, 033

Suggested Citation

Myers, Kyle and Tham, Wei Yang and Yin, Yian and Cohodes, Nina and Thursby, Jerry G. and Thursby, Marie and Schiffer, Peter and Walsh, Joseph and Lakhani, Karim R. and Wang, Dashun, Quantifying the Immediate Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Scientists (May 22, 2020). Georgia Tech Scheller College of Business Research Paper No. 3608302, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3608302 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3608302

Kyle Myers (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Technology & Operations Management Unit ( email )

Boston, MA 02163
United States

Wei Yang Tham

Harvard University - Business School (HBS) ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States

Yian Yin

Northwestern University - Department of Industrial Engineering and Management Sciences ( email )

2145 Sheridan Road
Room C210
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

Nina Cohodes

Laboratory for Innovation Science at Harvard ( email )

175 N. Harvard St
Suite 1350
Boston, MA 02134
United States

HOME PAGE: http://lish.harvard.edu/

Jerry G. Thursby

Emory University - Department of Economics ( email )

1602 Fishburne Drive
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States

Georgia Institute of Technology - Scheller College of Business ( email )

800 West Peachtree St.
Atlanta, GA 30308
United States

Marie Thursby

Georgia Institute of Technology - Scheller College of Business ( email )

800 West Peachtree St.
Atlanta, GA 30308
United States

Peter Schiffer

Yale University ( email )

493 College St
New Haven, CT CT 06520
United States

Joseph Walsh

Northwestern University ( email )

2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

Karim R. Lakhani

Harvard Business School - Technology and Operations Management Group ( email )

Boston, MA 02163
United States
617-495-6741 (Phone)

Harvard Institute for Quantitative Social Science ( email )

1737 Cambridge St.
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Harvard University - Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society ( email )

Harvard Law School
23 Everett, 2nd Floor
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Dashun Wang

Northwestern University - Northwestern Institute for Complex Systems (NICO) ( email )

Chambers Hall
600 Foster Street
Evanston, IL 60208-4057
United States

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