What Can Research Institution Administrators Learn From Researcher Experiences of the COVID-19 Pandemic? Insights From a Survey of NIH and NSF Researchers

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Philosophy and Religion




The beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic required research institution administrators and researchers to make rapid and unprecedented decisions about whether research should continue and in what form. In the fall of 2020, we conducted a national survey of 930 federally-funded principal investigators (PIs) who continued in-person research during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. We investigated researcher perceptions of what shaped their choices about conducting in-person essential research and managing personnel during this time. Several quantitative survey questions asked about PI perceptions of institutional policies serving as barriers and facilitators to decision making, and these responses to qualitative questions were coded when they made reference to the role of administration in their decisions. Using this subset of data, we analyzed how administrative decisions at the institutional level affected downstream experiences of researchers. By jointly interpreting the quantitative and qualitative data, we identified 10 concrete lessons that can inform administrator decision making and best practices in preparation and response to crisis shutdowns of research if and when they happen in the future.

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Society of Research Administrators International

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