Scholarly research is an enormous priority for many higher education institutions, serving both as a core part of the academic mission and also in some cases a major source of revenue. This year’s COVID-19 pandemic massively disrupted scientific research projects and the lives and careers of scientists themselves, and it has already begun to have profound budget consequences for some of the most research intensive higher education institutions. Some of the other impacts of this period of disruption are only just beginning to come into focus. 

In a landscape review published today, we focus on the impact of COVID-19 on scientific research at large research universities in the US. Specifically, we examine three broad areas: 

  • Financial Impacts on Universities
  • The Impacts on Scientific Research Activities
  • Human Impacts

In each, we identify gaps in the current literature and describe what further research questions need to be pursued. We believe there is merit in developing a longer-term research agenda to ensure that the disruptions facing universities and their research enterprises is well understood and is addressed as best as possible under what are trying circumstances for all. 

As a next step, we will soon publish a deeper examination of the financial impacts of the pandemic disruptions on the research university. This project, based on a series of interviews with senior leaders such as senior research officers, CFOs, and provosts, will pursue how different budget models and structures may adapt differently, and how universities will be affected, even if there is little or no reduction in external research funding. 

In addition to long-standing work such as our examinations of research practices, Ithaka S+R will be continuing to address the research enterprise as an area of focus. Later this calendar year, we will be publishing findings from a study about the role, organizational structure, and strategic directions of the senior research officer at major research universities. We welcome feedback on these projects individually and the broad direction we are pursuing to ensure that it stays in close alignment with the needs of the academic community.