Conducting research work amid the COVID-19 pandemic is undoubtedly a task full of challenges. As the pandemic sweeps through the world, different kinds of professional and personal impediments are being encountered by the doctoral community. To begin with, the crisis has upended our normal lifestyle and taken a toll on our mental health. As researchers stay at home due to lockdown restrictions, they are more likely to be preoccupied with the practical concerns in their life as a result of increased domestic and household responsibilities. Stress and fear about the ongoing outbreak is another diversion in the way of peaceful and dedicated research.
Next, even though universities and institutions are going virtual, researchers are increasingly facing problems, such as difficulty getting teams together, visiting libraries or having face-to-face discussions with supervisors. Add to this, the scrambling to arrange technological equipment – be it a laptop, a desktop, a webcam, telecommunication apps or contact information of team members.
However, given the ceaseless lockdown extensions, it is important that one works out ways and means to sustain one’s research work and reduce the impact of the pandemic.
Switch to online research and communication: Virtual resources of knowledge and channels of communication offer the best avenue to carry out one’s research and connect with teammates in the middle of a health crisis. However, while some may be perfectly tech-savvy, the problem of digital know-how may be faced with others. Individuals may be more accustomed to traditional modes of research and switching suddenly from document-based to online research may be difficult for them. Yet, it is advisable to familiarize and adapt oneself quickly to virtual mediums for one’s own benefit.
Do not lose touch with your team: Constant communication with your team members will help keep your research work going on. There are high chances of group discussions, seminars and conferences getting canceled amid the pandemic but you should maintain touch with your network through online channels. It will also keep you feeling more reassured, positive and optimistic about your uncertain professional career. You can support and seek support from your teammates whenever you feel low. Doubts can also be clarified and problems that could not be handled single-handedly resolved mutually.
Avoid human contact: The COVID-19 situation is particularly precarious for researchers who depend on other participants and face-to-face interactions with them to collect data. Yet, one must avoid all physical visits and human contact due to the high risk involved of contracting the infection. Universities and institutions, on their part, will have to deploy staff in libraries and labs who would be required to open them. Traveling should be avoided too as part of the strategy to avoid human contact.
Acquire supplementary skills: Divert your energies on learning new things – take up online courses, hone your communication skills or familiarize yourself with novel research methodologies. Utilize the time of lockdown to enhance your knowledge and research expertise in ways other than usual that will eventually prove rewarding and contribute to your thesis.
Support junior colleagues: Early-career researchers and trainees need special support during the current crisis. Extend all possible assistance that you can to your juniors be it in the form of study material, contacts of expert researchers or online academic resources. Reach out to your juniors and motivate them to sail through the tough times. Offer opportunities to collaborate with you or provide help through additional means. In case you’re an early career researcher yourself, try getting in touch with your seniors and mentors and plead for relaxing deadlines or any other assistance that you require.
Build online support communities: As lockdown isolates researchers, there may be a need of a dedicated go-to virtual space to communicate. You can meet via virtual platforms like Slack or have Zoom meetings to discuss research-related topics and daily progress in your research work. Group meetings will also foster a sense of camaraderie among the researchers in these challenging times. It will dawn the acknowledgement of not working or being alone as a pandemic grips the entire world. Researchers can share news, latest information and other updates about COVID-19 as well as talk about personal hurdles coming their way.
Mark delays due to COVID-19: The pandemic has affected all of us across geographical boundaries. Researchers can make a note in their curriculum vitae of delayed or canceled conferences, presentations, workshops, classes or seminars due to the lockdown. This will help your interviewer understand the genuine difficulties you faced in pursuing your research goals during this phase of your career. It will help to shift the onus from you onto the crisis.
Contribute to global research against COVID-19: As a researcher, you can undertake research against the novel infection and think about international collaborations to help society battle COVID-19. Do your best in your respective area of research to combat this global challenge, support leaders in their decision-making and engage in citizen education. In case your research is in the field of science, you can make special contributions by enlightening people with useful insights and information and even conducting medical research on safety measures and treatments. Professionally and academically, your research endeavors can bear fruits in the future for your own career.
Cope well with stress and anxieties: While you’re at home carrying out research, you will tend to stay updated on news or be more active on social media. However, just take care to limit your screen time be it for watching news, entertainment or connecting with friends and family. Excessive media time is likely to instill you with fear or stress. Eat a healthy, balanced diet, take up physical activities and indulge in hobbies to keep calm and manage stress. You can also join online fitness classes or contribute to the welfare of others by sharing tips on physical and mental wellness. Self-care is essential during this time and so is communicating your emotions and sentiments to others to feel relieved.
Look for alternative career opportunities: Professional career for many of us has gone for a toss as in-person interviews stand postponed and traveling suspended during the lockdown. Even career opportunities in the academic and corporate sectors will be deficient due to the economic recession being faced globally. Yet, it is a known fact that the doctoral community depends on publications and face-to-face interviews for gaining fellowships, grants and job positions. So, it is wise that researchers search for alternative career options, such as writing papers and reviews online or various other collaborations to make ends meet.