RAPID: Winners and Losers when Science Moves Home: Differential Effects of COVID-19 based on Discipline, Caregiving, and Career Stage

Project: Research project

Project Details


RAPID: Winners and Losers when Science Moves Home: Differential Effects of COVID-19 based on Discipline, Caregiving, and Career Stage RAPID: Winners and Losers when Science Moves Home: Differential Effects of COVID-19 based on Discipline, Caregiving, and Career Stage PROJECT SUMMARY COVID-19 is a natural and anthropogenic disaster unfolding before our eyes. In this social science project, we seek to understand the anthropogenic period effect on the nations academic STEM research workforce. A major part of the nations scientific research is conducted in its research universities, with enormous societal investment. COVID-19 is creating scholarly opportunities at the same time that it is disrupting heretofore established routines and social systems. There is variability in the extent to which faculty deal directly with COVID-19 (e.g. researching it, addressing it in class, engaging with larger communities), but all professors will be affected indirectly by COVID-19 (e.g., through university and governmental policies mandating changed interaction patterns). Furthermore, all faculty will be affected by social distancing (and other policy mechanisms) in the conduct of their personal lives. Many faculty members will struggle with being productive while having children at home, moving courses online, and helping students facing challenging circumstances. For other faculty, COVID-19 may serve as an unplanned sabbatical, with abundant time for engaging in research. This research project will use both qualitative and quantitative data to address the following overarching research question: How does social distancing affect the productivity of STEM faculty members in American research universities? We hypothesize the degree of productivity is conditioned by three broad sets of influence: intensity of dependence on physical research infrastructure, challenges of shifting teaching and mentoring online, and caregiving responsibilities. We are broadly interested in impacts across the academic life course, but are particularly interested in impacts on early-career researchers for whom research disruptions may be particularly costly. Intellectual Merit A major focus of scholars of science is to understand the mechanisms by which national science systems produce excellent science. This study provides an opportunity to examine how social disruptions caused by COVID-19 is affecting academic scientists and their ability to conduct research. Although COVID-19 is a specific instance of a macro-level disruption, findings from this study will inform understanding of the impact of large macro shocks on the nations academic research capacity. Consistent with a long tradition in the scholarship of science, we expect it will have inequitable impacts with potentially long-term consequences for scientific careers. Specifically, infrastructure-dependent, early career, and caregiving academic scientists are likely to be especially negatively affected by social disruptions due to COVID-19. Broader Impacts The United States makes substantial investments in academic science and scientists. Therefore, understanding how a massive macro-level disruption like COVID-19 affects scientific productivity is in the nations interest. The project will illuminate mechanisms that affect academic productivity, efficiency and equity, and will propose policy mechanisms the federal government may employ to improve all three goals of our national science system. Because academic STEM researchers are also educators, understanding how they are learning and employing technology-enabled pedagogy will identify programmatic and policy interventions useful for improving the quality and reach of undergraduate STEM education..
Effective start/end date8/1/207/31/22


  • National Science Foundation (NSF): $175,687.00


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