COVID-19 Impacts to Geoscience Research, June - December 2020

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In this data brief we examine the research methods used by geoscientists between June and December 2020 as well as related health and safety, facility, and meeting restrictions. From June through December, literature review and writing and online research were the most reported research method by all cohorts, with the majority of students and post-doctoral fellows also conducting computational research. Online meetings continue to be the norm, the use of face masks and social distancing continue to be the most commonly reported health and safety protocol in use, and access restrictions and limited staffing continue to be implemented at facilities and field sites.

Research Methods

From June through December 2020, work and research for all academic cohorts primarily revolved around literature review and writing activities, online research, and computational research – the latter more common among post-doctoral fellows and students than among faculty. A higher percent­age of faculty reported conducting field activities than did students or post-doctoral fellows, while a higher percentage of students and post-doctoral fellows reported conducting lab-based activities than did faculty.

Literature review and writing and online research were the most reported research methods used by non-academic geo­sciences professionals from June through December 2020. The percentage of non-academic geoscientists conducting computational research and field activities was highest during the summer months and declined starting in September. Over the same period the percentage of non-academic geoscien­tists conducting lab-based activities increased, from 17% to 23% during November and December 2020.

Online research was the most reported research method by K-12 faculty, and while the percentage of respondents con­ducting online research declined from 89% in June-August to 75% in November-December, there was an increase in the percentage of K-12 faculty conducting computational research and literature review and writing. Lab-based activ­ities were more commonly reported than field activities, and the percentage of faculty reporting conducting these research activities peaked in September-October at 43% for lab-based activities and 13% for field activities.

DB_2021-002 chart 01: Research methods used by geoscience students, 2020 (Credit: AGI; data from AGI's Geoscience COVID-19 Survey)

DB_2021-002 chart 02: Research methods used by geoscience faculty, 2020 (Credit: AGI; data from AGI's Geoscience COVID-19 Survey)

DB_2021-002 chart 03: Research methods used by geoscience post-docs, 2020 (Credit: AGI; data from AGI's Geoscience COVID-19 Survey)

DB_2021-002 chart 04: Research methods used by non-academic geoscientistse, 2020 (Credit: AGI; data from AGI's Geoscience COVID-19 Survey)

DB_2021-002 chart 04: Research methods used by non-academic geoscientistse, 2020 (Credit: AGI; data from AGI's Geoscience COVID-19 Survey)

Health and Safety Restrictions

The most common health and safety restrictions reported across all cohorts were wearing face masks inside buildings and the use of social distancing. Health and safety restric­tions that showed an increase between June and December 2020 included COVID testing at K-12 and post-secondary institutions, and the use of face masks both inside and outside buildings. Across all cohorts, there was a slight decrease in the use of personal protective equipment, and increased health and safety protocols.

The use of social distancing remained relatively steady for all cohorts, and over November-December 2020, 93% of geo­science academics, 90% of non-academic geoscientists, and 88% of K-12 faculty reporting use of this health and safety protocol. The use of temperature checks remained steady for geoscience academics at 30%, whereas its use increased for non-academic geoscientists to 38% and decreased to 46% for K-12 faculty in November-December 2020.

DB_2021-002 chart 06: COVID-19 related health and safety restrictions for geoscience academics (Credit: AGI; data from AGI's Geoscience COVID-19 Survey)

DB_2021-002 chart 07: COVID-19 related health and safety restrictions for non-academic geoscientists (Credit: AGI; data from AGI's Geoscience COVID-19 Survey)

DB_2021-002 chart 08: COVID-19 related health and safety restrictions for K-12 faculty (Credit: AGI; data from AGI's Geoscience COVID-19 Survey)

Facility Access and Use

Top facility restrictions for all cohorts included access restrictions to facilities or fieldwork sites, including alter­nate schedules and limited hours, and reduced number of personnel at facilities or field sites. Access restrictions did ease slightly for academic geoscientists by November-De­cember 2020, with 75% of academic geoscientists reporting this facility restriction, down from 81% over the summer.

The percentage of academic and non-academic geosci­entists reporting deferral of field and lab-based activities declined from June through December 2020, while the per­centage of K-12 faculty reporting deferral of field activities remained steady near 33% and the percentage reporting deferral of lab activities increased to 46% in November-De­cember 2020.

DB_2021-002 chart 09: COVID-19 related facility restrictions for geoscience academics (Credit: AGI; data from AGI's Geoscience COVID-19 Survey)

DB_2021-002 chart 10: COVID-19 related facility restrictions for non-academic geoscientists (Credit: AGI; data from AGI's Geoscience COVID-19 Survey)

DB_2021-002 chart 11: COVID-19 related facility restrictions for K-12 faculty (Credit: AGI; data from AGI's Geoscience COVID-19 Survey)

Meetings and Travel

Online and phone meetings continue to be the norm with over 80% of academic and non-academic geoscientists and over three-quarters of K-12 faculty reporting this requirement between June and December 2020. Prohibition of all travel eased slightly for all cohorts over June-December 2020 period. Over the same period, isolation protocols increased, most commonly isolation upon arrival at the destination spot, including when returning from travel away from one’s home location. Over 40% of respondents reported restrictions prohibiting outside visitors and guests from June through December, and this restriction slightly increased for aca­demic geoscientists starting in September and decreased for K-12 faculty after the summer months.

DB_2021-002 chart 12: COVID-19 related meeting and travel restrictions for geoscience academics (Credit: AGI; data from AGI's Geoscience COVID-19 Survey)

DB_2021-002 chart 13: COVID-19 related meeting and travel restrictions for non-academic geoscientists (Credit: AGI; data from AGI's Geoscience COVID-19 Survey)

DB_2021-002 chart 14: COVID-19 related meeting and travel restrictions for K-12 faculty (Credit: AGI; data from AGI's Geoscience COVID-19 Survey)

We will continue to provide current snapshots on the impacts of COVID-19 on the geoscience enterprise throughout the year. For more information, and to participate in the study, please visit: www.americangeosciences.org/workforce/covid19.

Funding for this project is provided by the National Science Foundation (Award #2029570). The results and interpretation of the survey are the views of the American Geosciences Institute and not those of the National Science Foundation.

Date updated: 2021-01-29
Data Brief 2021-002
Written and compiled by Leila Gonzales and Christopher Keane, AGI

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