Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on scientists’ productivity in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM), and medicine fields

Authors : Seulkee Heo, Alisha Yee Chan, Pedro Diaz Peralta, Lan Jin, Claudia Ribeiro Pereira Nunes, Michelle L. Bell

While studies suggested adverse impacts of COVID-19 on scientific outputs and work routines for scientists, more evidence is required to understand detailed obstacles challenging scientists’ work and productivity during the pandemic, including how different people are affected (e.g., by gender).

This online survey-based thematic analysis investigated how the pandemic affected scientists’ perception of scientific and academic productivity in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and medicine fields.

The analysis examined if inequitable changes in duties and responsibilities for caregiving for children, family, and/or households exist between scientists who are mothers compared to scientists who are fathers or non-parents.

The survey collected data from 2548 survey responses in six languages across 132 countries. Results indicate that many scientists suffered from delays and restrictions on research activities and administrations due to the lockdown of institutions, as well as increased workloads from adapting to online teaching environment.

Caregiving responsibility for children and family increased, which compromised time for academic efforts, especially due to the temporary shutdown of social supports. Higher percentages of female parent participants than male parent participants expressed such increased burdens indicating unequal divisions of caregiving between women and men.

A range of physical and mental health issues was identified mainly due to overworking and isolation. Despite numerous obstacles, some participants reported advantages during the pandemic including the efficiency of online teaching, increased funding for COVID-related research, application of alternative research methodologies, and fluidity of the workday from not commuting.

Findings imply the need for rapid institutional support to aid various academic activities and diminish gender inequity in career development among academicians, highlighting how crisis can exacerbate existing inequalities.

URL : Impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on scientists’ productivity in science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM), and medicine fields



Scientific authorship by gender: trends before and during a global pandemic

Authors : Ji-Young Son, Michelle L. Bell

Many fields of science are still dominated by men. COVID-19 has dramatically changed the nature of work, including for scientists, such as lack of access to key resources and transition to online teaching. Further, scientists face the pandemic-related stressors common to other professions (e.g., childcare, eldercare).

As many of these activities fall more heavily on women, the pandemic may have exacerbated gender disparities in science. We analyzed self-identified gender of corresponding author for 119,592 manuscripts from 151 countries submitted January 2019 to July 2021 to the Institute of Physics (IOP) portfolio of 57 academic journals, with disciplines of astronomy and astrophysics, bioscience, environmental science, materials, mathematics, physics, and interdisciplinary research.

We consider differences by country, journal, and pre-pandemic versus pandemic periods. Gender was self-identified by corresponding author for 82.9% of manuscripts (N = 99,114 for subset of submissions with gender). Of these manuscripts, authors were 82.1% male, 17.8% female, and 0.08% non-binary. Most authors were male for all countries (country-specific values: range 0.0–100.0%, median 86.1%) and every journal (journal-specific values range 63.7–91.5%, median 83.7%).

The contribution of female authors was slightly higher in the pandemic (18.7%) compared to pre-pandemic (16.5%). However, prior to the pandemic, the percent of submissions from women had been increasing, and this value slowed during the pandemic. Contrary to our hypothesis, we did not find that manuscript submissions from women decreased during the pandemic, although the rate of increased submissions evident prior to the pandemic slowed.

In both pre-pandemic and pandemic periods, authorship was overwhelmingly male for all journals, countries, and fields. Further research is needed on impacts of the pandemic on other measures of scientific productivity (e.g., accepted manuscripts, teaching), scientific position (e.g., junior vs. senior scholars), as well as the underlying gender imbalance that persisted before and during the pandemic.

URL : Scientific authorship by gender: trends before and during a global pandemic