How the Research Community Works from Home


Like many other industries that can, much of the research community around the world is transitioning to work outside of their usual environments. For research with lab or field components, this presents unique challenges.  

We’re hearing about a lot of tough choices you all are making for the safety of your community: 

  • Many researchers are freezing or otherwise preserving long-term experiments – some that have lasted decades – because they can’t be in the lab.  
  • Teams are identifying essential and non-essential research and deciding what experiments can be paused or stopped.  
  • Researchers at closed labs are sending in one staff member at a time to check on experiments and equipment or to care for laboratory animals. 
  • In other cases, labs are making decisions about what to do with their specimens during this time if no one can come in to care for them.  
  • Teams are evaluating clinical trials that aren’t related to COVID-19 and deciding whether to stop new enrollment, or whether they can continue with online or telephone check ins with volunteers.  
  • Field research is being put on hold due to travel bans, and teams in remote areas are grappling with the risks of being cut off in closed quarters. 

These decisions are all hard to make, and they will have an impact on our community for a long time to come. The research community is creative and resourceful. Researchers already know how to collaborate around the world and work together toward goals that are bigger than any single study, and we’re hearing lots of stories about teamwork across the globe.  

Because the work you do is too important to stop, now is the time to find creative ways to move knowledge forward. Here are a few tips to keep in mind: 

  • Focus on you – There is never enough time for professional development. There is never enough time to learn those extra skills that will help you share your research with the world – whether that’s social media, data visualization, or photography. This could be your chance. 
  • Check in with your network – Not only are you not alone, you’re probably in a similar boat to people all around the world. Is this the time to start talking to colleagues about that collaborative idea you came up with at last year’s conference?  

    And if your work usually requires travel and field research far from your home, see whether there are local researchers that you can collaborate with to avoid losing longitudinal data collection (so long as everyone remains safe in their local communities).  
  • Remember junior colleagues (and junior colleagues, remember each other) – Early in your career, when conducting and publishing research is especially critical for your advancement, this time might feel like a very stressful setback. Ask your colleagues how they’re feeling and listen! 
  • There’s so much data to be explored – As more journals and institutions store their data publicly, there’s an ever-growing source of untapped research potential. You never know what connections you might find.  
  • Get a head start on your next manuscript or research project – Use your time to get caught up on the latest research in your field, start prepping your next manuscript for submission, or start the background research for your next experiment when you’re back in the lab or the field. 

You know the rest: create a schedule, give yourself breaks, communicate regularly with your team. We are here for you, and we’re doing what we can to help you access research from home, figure out how to teach your courses online, and come together to help our medical workers the resources they need. We are also listening to what you need on Connections (where you can share your experience with other researchers around the world).  

The long-term impacts on the scientific enterprise are unknown, but we are confident that together we can find ways to keep knowledge moving forward. Whether researchers halt trials for two months or figure out how to manage delays in experiments that last much longer, there is still so much great and groundbreaking work happening across the research community.  

Tell us in the comments below or on Connections how your research team is managing these changes. 


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