Collaborative Research in a Virtual World: Implications of COVID-19 for the Co-Production of Environmental Knowledge and Solutions
37 Pages Posted: 26 Dec 2020 Last revised: 21 Jan 2021
Date Written: December 24, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic offers a unique opportunity to observe widespread use of virtual interaction and understand its influence on collaboration in different settings. This study investigates the impact of virtual interaction on forms of collaborative research where researchers and users meaningfully interact to co-produce knowledge and solutions. We report results from a survey distributed to grantees performing collaborative research on environmental topics before and during the pandemic. Facilitated in partnership with five funders of environmental collaborative research across North America, survey responses (n=45) depict changes in modes, frequencies, and participation levels in collaborative research after the onset of the pandemic. Nearly all grantees came to rely entirely on virtual modes for engagement, and for them, the process illuminated a wide range of constraints (e.g., building relationships, engaging with some types of partners), benefits (e.g., convenience and efficiency), and possible strategies (e.g., incorporating new technologies, adapting meeting formats and durations). Although difficult to disentangle pandemic-related factors from intrinsic opportunities and limitations of virtual collaboration, lessons learned from this rapid response study can inform future research, evaluation, and development of mechanisms to support collaborative research.
Keywords: COVID-19; collaborative research, knowledge co-production, science funding, science of actionable knowledge
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