[ Tools for Researchers] February 16, 2021
Research in the time of Covid: An early-career researcher shares her experience (Part Two)
Morressier: What has it been like being a researcher in a time when science has become politicized and facts and truths are constantly being manipulated?
Taylor: The public is definitely becoming more aware of science, especially in countries like England, where there is a lack of trust in the government and the facts and figures that officials share. People are taking things into their own hands, so to speak, taking responsibility for their own health and trying to gain more of a scientific understanding of the world themselves. The issue with this lies in the fact that the general public may be doing this without enough knowledge of scientific data and research, especially during a time in which many corporations are conducting research attempting to make data fit into their brand or narrative. These things make it very difficult to see the true meaning of the findings being presented unless you know the ins and outs of interpreting scientific data.
When it came to presenting my research, the best thing for me was to present the data as clearly as I could, in its truest form. I think this is the real duty that all scientists and researchers must aim for; to present their work without bias and as clearly as possible, so that people can make informed decisions on their own.
Morressier: What do you envision as the biggest trends in research coming up in 2021?
Taylor: I think Covid will have a massive impact on research being conducted this year, in two main facets, the first one being scientific data. For instance, the effectiveness of vaccines, how Covid has affected different ethnic groups, or even nutritionally, what kind of diets would relieve symptoms of Covid.
I think the second branch will be more focused on the social effects of the pandemic, and how it has impacted people experiencing poverty, children’s education, mental health, and more. The trends and focuses in research this year are going to be vastly different from how they would’ve been if the coronavirus outbreak hadn’t occurred, specifically in regards to food poverty. I think people have really taken notice of it now with the high unemployment rates and poverty struggles that the pandemic has given rise to. Even before Covid people were struggling for food, but the virus has brought these issues to light and to the forefront of modern research . Social media also has a large influence on these trends, putting pressure on both the government and scientists to pay attention to these matters.
Morressier: The pandemic has showed the resilience of many industries and communities, while also exposing certain inequities such as lack diversity and inclusion in the workplace. What have you learned about the research community through its response to the pandemic? What are the areas for improvement?
Taylor: The pandemic has highlighted the importance of research, and the general public has started to appreciate and understand the role of the researcher a bit more.
We’ve been forced to become familiar with a lot of new methods of collecting data. Researchers have been resilient, flexible, and creative when it comes to not only adapting ways of documenting research on topics like the impact of Covid, for instance, but also finding productive solutions to these issues, by conducting research on things that might reduce the impact of Covid.
I think one area for development underscored by the pandemic is definitely sharing research on an interdisciplinary level. I think this will result in faster solutions and better communication overall throughout the scientific community. During the pandemic, we all seem to be working towards the same goal, so we might as well share our results around those efforts so that they can be realized more quickly.
Morressier: The pandemic has underscored the importance of early-scientific findings and preprints, where previously emphasis was largely placed on the final results. Why do you think early-stage research is important?
Taylor: Early-stage research gives you the preliminary data that other researchers can use to highlight gaps or key areas where further research might be needed to use as a starting point for other areas of investigation. When early-stage research can be accessed, scientists can learn from one another as they go along. This is especially important during a time when there’s an abundance of research being conducted around the world on the same topics. For example, in terms of finding a vaccine for Covid, it’s so important to get it done right and get it done quick, and access to early-stage research can both accelerate and validate final results.