COVID-19 Disrupts Important Research Projects, Shutters Labs Indefinitely

Survey reveals wide-ranging adverse impact of COVID-19 on research
American Physiological Society (APS)

Newswise — Rockville, Md. (August 6, 2020)—As COVID-19 —the disease caused by the novel coronavirus— has sickened millions and killed more than 155,000 people in the U.S., the virus has also halted critical physiological research and shuttered labs across the nation. This according to nearly 100 researchers who responded to an informal poll conducted by the American Physiological Society (APS). Survey respondents reported furloughs, layoffs and delays in research completion. The immediate fallout is vast, and the effects could be long-lasting. 

Fifty-eight percent of trainee respondents said lab closures due to COVID-19 may increase the time it takes them to complete their training. Forty-five percent of respondents reported setbacks in long-term, time-sensitive experiments or loss of specialized research resources.

“Due to the immediate shutdown of the lab, we were forced to abandon time-sensitive animal experiments in which we had already invested a number of months in data acquisition and interventions,” said one researcher. “We will need to restart these experiments, but are unsure of how this work will be funded.”

Among other findings:

  • 28% of faculty-level researchers have experienced furloughs or salary reductions.
  • 60% of researchers have experienced delays in recruiting new students, staff and postdoctoral researchers due to closures and hiring freezes.
  • 82% of faculty-level researchers believe that coronavirus-related closures will negatively impact their ability to apply for grants and maintain continuous funding.

The survey was led by Rebecca Osthus, PhD, associate director of government relations and science policy at APS. Osthus said the survey was conducted “so that we could hear directly from our members about how COVID-19 has disrupted biomedical research. We wanted to know what challenges they are facing and what they need to recover and get their research back on track. We plan to share this information with Congress as we advocate for additional funding and with federal agencies that are trying to respond to the needs of the research community.”

Learn more about the survey at Find more coverage on how COVID-19 is affecting the biomedical research community, including the ripple effects of nationwide lab closures, in the July issue of The Physiologist Magazine.

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: To schedule an interview, please contact the APS Communications Office or call 301.634.7314. Find more research highlights in our News Room.

Physiology is a broad area of scientific inquiry that focuses on how molecules, cells, tissues and organs function in health and disease. The American Physiological Society connects a global, multidisciplinary community of more than 10,000 biomedical scientists and educators as part of its mission to advance scientific discovery, understand life and improve health. The Society drives collaboration and spotlights scientific discoveries through its 16 scholarly journals and programming that support researchers and educators in their work.


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