Research in the time of the coronavirus

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned life, travel, and the economy upside down all around the world. But what impact has it had on research and research practices, in general? In this Special Feature, we investigate.

Last month, Medical News Today published an interview with Dr. Catherine Oldenburg, an infectious disease epidemiologist and co-lead researcher of a new clinical trial investigating a potential treatment for COVID-19.

In the interview, Dr. Oldenburg commented on some unexpected ways in which the pandemic has affected how scientists conduct their research.

Items that were readily available before the pandemic, such as laboratory or clinical trial supplies, have become more difficult to get hold of due to restrictions on international movement.

“It’s interesting how many things we took for granted before COVID-19 — you know, [like the] moving of supplies,” Dr. Oldenburg remarked in the interview.

What else has changed in the landscape of research as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic?

In this Special Feature, MNT “takes the pulse” of the research community to see where it now stands.

Research focus has shifted to COVID-19

With the world facing a new coronavirus, the immediate focus across the research community is — rightly so — on finding vaccines and treatments that will work effectively against SARS-CoV-2.

But what has happened to the rest of the medical research centered around equally important causes?

In a comment piece that appeared in The Lancet on May 16, the journal’s editor-in-chief, Richard Horton, mused on the fact that, after the pandemic started, COVID-19-related research almost monopolized the publication’s focus, to the detriment of other topics that the editorial team had planned on covering.

“At The Lancet, we had planned to give child and adolescent health particular attention in 2020,” Horton wrote.

He also confessed to having planned on “establishing a new platform of work on migration and health, […] and continuing to advance the program we began last year on the synergies between diet, disease, and planetary ecosystems.”

The team dropped all of these targets to focus on advances in COVID-19 research. However, Horton recognized that other public health topics have remained no less pressing despite the fact that attention has shifted away from them.

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