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Scientists in COVID-19

Unequal Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Scientists


Results of a survey of approximately 4,500 Principal Investigators (PIs) at U.S.- and Europebased research institutions highlight the sizable and heterogeneous ways the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the scientific workforce.

Scientists report a sharp decline in time spent on research on average, but there is substantial heterogeneity with a significant share reporting no changes or even increases.

Some of this heterogeneity is due to field-specific differences, and some is due to gender.

However, the largest disruptions are connected to a usually unobserved dimension: childcare, which can account for a significant fraction of gender differences.

Amidst scarce evidence about the role of parenting in scientists’ work, these results may have broad relevance for shaping responses to the pandemic’s effect on science and beyond.


To understand the effect of COVID-19 on scientists, we perform an informal survey disseminated to U.S.- and Europe-based scientists across a wide range of institutions, career stages, and demographic backgrounds. We distributed the survey on Monday April 13th, 2020, about 1 month after the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 pandemic. Within one week, the survey received full responses from 4,535 individuals who self-identified as faculty or PIs.

Because of the sensitive nature of some of the variables collected, the IRB-approved protocol does not permit individual-level data to be made unrestricted and publicly available. Researchers interested in obtaining restricted, anonymized versions of this individual-level data should contact the authors to inquire about obtaining an IRB-approved institutional data sharing agreement.

The core code to analyze the effects of COVID-19 on scientists is available for download.