Science in the face of the COVID-19 crisis
Experimental results, last updated on 24 September, 2020
This document provides a real-time glance at the initial results from the new OECD Science Flash Survey 2020. This “flash” or “pulse” survey was designed and first launched by the OECD Directorate for Science, Technology and Innovation on an experimental basis in mid-April 2020. Its objective is to provide a timely picture – i.e. a pulse measure – of the state of science amidst the COVID-19 crisis and report on society’s perceptions about its role and future outlook. Scientific research and the use of scientific evidence are key aspects of the global and OECD effort against the pandemic and its economic and social repercussions. This survey complements the STIP-COVID survey on policy responses to the crisis.
This study has been implemented through an online open-link questionnaire [click to participate], inviting scientists or any other individuals with an interest in science or science policy on the impact of the COVID-19 crisis from a science perspective. The survey, so far only available in English, has been initially promoted through the network of the OECD Committee for Scientific and Technological Policy and former participants of the 2018 OECD International Survey of Scientific Authors (ISSA). Given its focus on getting a pulse on the situation and outlook, the survey design prioritises timeliness and full anonymity. The survey does not request any information that can identify the respondents. As a result, results cannot be considered to be representative of a well-defined population and should be treated with extreme caution and considered as a complementary view to other statistical evidence.
As of 24 September, 2020, over 2500 responses from nearly 100 countries have been collected. 65% of responses correspond to individuals that identify themselves as scientists, with the rest comprising science policy advisors (15%), professionals involved in science (10%), individuals carrying out science-related administrative work (5%), and science communicators (5%). Over 70% of responses indicate a shift to home working. Nearly 20% report a shift of the orientation of their work towards COVID-19-related issues. Nearly 20% of responses from scientists reported a reduction in the intensity of their work, compared to about 15% reporting an increase in intensity.
Responses indicating a recent experience or expectation of upcoming changes under each of the following items.
The responses from scientists reveal a negative impact on the use of research material and facilities, job security and career opportunities, research funding and time available for research. A minority of responses expect a change in collaboration and engagement with policy makers. Collaboration is expected to be slightly negatively impacted. Scientists’ impressions point towards an increased use of digital tools for research and access to scientific information and data as a consequence of the current crisis. No large differences are found between women and men. Yet women point to a stronger decrease in their time available for research.
The responses collected thus far are overall positive about the general prospects for the status of science after the crisis. Respondents expect science to see its reputation strengthening and foresee a greater use and integration of different strands of scientific expertise in policy advice as well as stronger collaboration and exchange of scientific information. However, respondents are highly uncertain about the overall resources that will be available for scientific research after the COVID-19 pandemic.
The results of this experimental flash/pulse study may inform OECD work on policy responses to the COVID-19 crisis. The survey will remain open on the following link while the current questions remain relevant: https://survey.oecd.org/index.php?r=survey/index&sid=176928&lang=en
As participation grows, additional data breakdowns will be available and results may be also mapped over time. As circumstances change, the OECD will consider the relevance of updating the questionnaire with questions that allow to track specific items of policy and social interest. The anonymous microdata for this study will be made available for secondary research purposes.
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Europe is the most represented geographical region in this study (60% of respondents are based in a European country) followed by North and South America (25%), Asia and Oceania (14%), and Africa (1%). The majority of respondents are aged between 35 and 55 years old. Men slightly outnumber women in terms of participation.