The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted every aspect of human life and has largely affected how experts conduct research. Researchers have been faced with numerous challenges such as limitations in accessing research participants, reduction in funding and resources, and health and safety concerns (Howlett, 2021). However, despite these difficulties, conducting research during the pandemic remains crucial for advancing knowledge and addressing the challenges posed by the pandemic. In this article, we will discuss the importance of conducting research during the pandemic, the challenges researchers face, and appropriate strategies to be deployed during this period which is full of ambiguity.
Importance of Conducting Research during a Pandemic
Conducting research during the pandemic is essential for a number of important reasons. First, it helps us better understand the virus and its impact on society. Researchers can investigate the virus’s biology, transmission, and epidemiology, as well as its economic, social, and psychological impact on individuals and communities. This information is crucial for developing effective policies and interventions to address the pandemic’s problems.
Second, conducting research during the pandemic is essential for maintaining progress in ongoing research projects. The pandemic has interrupted many research projects, but halting research altogether would result in a significant loss of knowledge and progress in many fields (Lawrence, 2020). Continuing research despite the pandemic ensures that the progress made so far is not lost and that research can resume as soon as conditions allow.
Third, conducting research during the pandemic is crucial for discovering new solutions to the challenges posed by the pandemic. Researchers can investigate new diagnostic tests, therapies, and vaccines, as well as strategies for preventing and controlling the spread of the virus. These discoveries are essential for ending the pandemic and preparing for future public health crises.
Challenges of Conducting Research during a Pandemic
Conducting research during a pandemic is not without challenges because precautions have to be taken to ensure participants aren’t affected. Here are some of the challenges researchers face:
Limitations in Access to Research Participants
One of the most significant challenges researchers face during the pandemic is limitations in accessing research participants. Social distancing measures and lockdowns have made it difficult to recruit subjects for research studies, particularly those involving face-to-face interactions (Lawrence, 2020). This is especially problematic for researchers who rely on specific populations for their research, such as people with certain medical conditions, older adults, or frontline workers.
Reduced Funding and Resources
The pandemic has also caused economic disruption, which has resulted in reduced funding and resources for research. Governments, universities, and funding agencies have redirected resources to support pandemic-related research, leaving less funding available for other research projects. This has forced many researchers to downsize their teams, cut back on resources, or even suspend their projects altogether.
Health and Safety Considerations
Another significant challenge researchers face during the pandemic is health and safety concerns. Researchers must balance the need to continue research with the need to protect themselves and their research participants from contracting the virus (Lawrence, 2020). Researchers must also ensure that their research complies with local public health guidelines, which can vary widely and change frequently.
Adapting Research Methods to the Pandemic
Finally, researchers must adapt their research methods to the pandemic. For example, researchers must find ways to conduct research remotely or using digital platforms, which can be challenging for some research designs (Lawrence, 2020). Researchers must also consider the impact of the pandemic on their research outcomes and adjust their research questions and hypotheses accordingly
Strategies for Conducting Research during a Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about significant changes in the research community. With the need to adhere to social distancing measures, researchers have had to adapt their research methods to ensure the safety of their participants and themselves. This section explores some of the strategies that researchers can use to conduct research during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Using Technology and Digital Platforms to Reach Research Participants
The use of technology and digital platforms has become increasingly popular during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Lawrence (2020) emphasized the challenges involving connectivity and the availability of digital tools to some demographics. But that does not mean that the limitation can totally halt research considering that Lawrence could not proceed at all during the pandemic and technology has offered an opportunity for researchers to proceed. Researchers can use these platforms to conduct surveys, interviews, and focus groups remotely. This strategy not only allows researchers to reach participants in different geographical locations but also reduces the risk of exposure to the virus. The main benefit of using technological/digital tools is that it can allow one to expand and customize a sizeable sample size and control the variables (Howlett, 2021). For example, online surveys can be used to collect data from a large sample quickly. Additionally, the use of video conferencing platforms can help experts facilitate interviews and focus groups with participants who may not have been able to participate in person.
Prioritizing Research Topics That Are Relevant to The Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about significant changes in the world, and researchers have had to adapt to these changes. One strategy that researchers can use to conduct research during the pandemic is to prioritize research topics that are relevant to the pandemic (Howlett, 2021). This could include studying the impact of the virus on mental health, healthcare systems, and the economy. Studying the impact of the pandemic on mental health, for example, could help researchers understand how it has affected people’s well-being and lives in general. Researchers can use surveys and interviews to collect data on people’s experiences during the pandemic, such as feelings of isolation, anxiety, and depression.
Collaborating With Other Researchers to Pool Resources
Collaboration is another strategy that researchers can use to conduct research during the pandemic. It can make researchers put their resources and minds together, share ideas, and access a bigger number of participants. Experts can engage with other experts within their institutions or with researchers from other institutions. This can be particularly useful when conducting research on topics that require a large sample size. For example, researchers studying the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health may need to collect data from a large number of participants to draw meaningful conclusions. Working with other researchers can ensure that the study has a sufficient sample size, sufficient analysis of data, and minimal gap for errors.
Adjusting Research Methods to Ensure Health and Safety
Researchers should consider adjusting their research methods to ensure the health and safety of their participants and themselves. This may include using personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves when overseeing face-to-face interviews. Researchers must also adhere to social distancing measures when running the research in person. Using technology can help us reduce the risk of exposure to the virus. They can also use digital platforms to conduct surveys, interviews, and focus groups remotely, reducing the need for face-to-face interactions.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about significant changes in the research community. Researchers have had to adapt their research methods to ensure the safety of their participants and themselves. This article has explored some of the strategies that researchers can use to conduct research during the pandemic. The use of technology and various digital platforms can help researchers reach people from different geographical locations and reduce the risk of exposure to the virus. Prioritizing research topics that are relevant to the pandemic can also assist experts to understand the impact of the pandemic on different aspects of society. Collaboration can compel researchers to pool their resources together and access a broader number of participants. Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is essential that research continues. Research plays a crucial role in unveiling different aspects of life, including the extent to which COVID has changed life on earth at the moment and probably in the future.
Howlett, M. (2021). Looking at the ‘field’ through a Zoom lens: Methodological reflections on conducting online research during a global pandemic. Qualitative Research, 22(3), 387-402. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1468794120985691
Lawrence, L. (2020). Conducting cross-cultural qualitative interviews with Mainland Chinese participants during COVID: Lessons from the field. Qualitative Research, 22(1), 154-165. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1468794120974157