Canberra: The effects of COVID-19 on Australian University researchers are likely to have consequences for research productivity and quality for many years to come.
They are deeply concerned about their ability to conduct research during the pandemic and its impact, according to an online survey of academics at the University of Canberra between November 2020 and February 2021.
The findings are in line with Research Australia’s research in 2020 and 2021 and suggest that Australia’s research sector will take a significant hit from COVID-19.
The knowledge produced by university research generates an estimated 10% of Australia’s GDP.
Without access to JobKeeper in 2020, universities across the region cut casual staff and increased the teaching load of full-time academics.
Along with the challenges of working from home, this has had a real impact on research not only immediately but in the long term.
Nearly three-quarters (73%) of respondents reported that the transition to online learning resulted in an increase in teaching commitments.
Nearly two-thirds reported delays in project milestones (63%) and publications (62%).
In addition to low research productivity, employees expressed concerns about the quality of output because they are aware that their general mental well-being has been affected.
As one academic put it: “Although I have completed the usual number of papers, I feel so overwhelmed with the work and concerned about their quality due to the COVID effects that I cannot implement my usual important decisions.” could.”
The effects on researchers are highly uneven. Nearly half (52%) of respondents felt positive about the flexibility of working from home.
In fact, we may see a change in the work culture after the pandemic.
An Australian Bureau of Statistics survey in June found that a third (33%) of Australians said working from home was an aspect of post-COVID life they would like to continue with.
However, working from home did not translate into work-life balance and productivity for many academics.
Household arrangements have had an overall negative impact for a significant number.
These effects particularly affected those with caring responsibilities.
Of those with children up to 12 years of age, 64% said that working at home had a negative impact on working hours, compared with 50% of those without children at home.
Those who had children at home were three times more likely to say that their household responsibilities had a negative effect on their research.
The effects of COVID-19 on academic staff are not evenly distributed.
There was a disproportionate gender effect, which is consistent with previous reports across the region.
The greatest influence on academics early in his career was with young families.
This differential effect is reflected in other research in academic publishing, which reveals the widening of the gender gap during the pandemic.
What does the future hold? Research is a long-term endeavor.
It takes years and even decades for research to flourish.
We asked respondents how they saw the future of their research.
Most people felt pessimistic about all aspects of research: funding, publishing, collaborating and supervising PhD students.
More than two-thirds of respondents had negative thoughts about their ability to attract funding and pursue research projects in the near future.
More importantly, those whose families are young are feeling disheartened about their research career.
Most of them say that their ability to publish will be hampered for the next two to three years.
This group is the future of Australian academic research, so the negative impact of COVID-19 is of serious concern.
This is important for Australia in terms of lost or delayed progress in science and technology, stalled or postponed progress in health care and treatment, a lack of ability to inform public debate, and fewer opportunities to contribute to Australia’s lifestyle and culture. is bad.
The impact of the pandemic on an emerging generation of researchers will have long-term consequences.
In June, an ABS survey of the effects of the pandemic found that one in five (20%) Australians experienced a high or very high level of psychological distress due to COVID-19.
It hasn’t changed since last November.
Like many Australians, academics are under enormous pressure trying to balance work and home life.
As well as concerns about the blurring of work and home life, we found evidence of low morale and exhaustion among employees.
These findings match a report released today by Professional Scientists Australia.
Both government and universities need to develop long-term, tailored strategies to support the research community.
This will help ensure that Australia’s research effort continues at its above world-class level, with the societal benefits associated with it.