But the pandemic has also brought significant and enduring challenges for the research community, including increasing misinformation, politicization of science, and greater public scrutiny of research than ever before. While that scrutiny can drive further rigor and recognition, it can also increase pressure on researchers – to publish their work earlier and more often, to identify reliable knowledge amidst an ever-growing sea of information, to communicate their research to a more generalist audience as well as policy makers. The research process doesn’t lend itself easily to such pressures. It is rarely neat and definitive; indeed, it thrives on experiment and uncertainty, on nuance and complexity. Trust and confidence in research arevital for our collective ability to tackle the most pressing global challenges, from climate change to future pandemics.
As a scientific publisher and information analytics company, Elsevier has been privileged to play a role, for over 140 years, in helping ensure that quality research can be trusted, shared, and built upon to accelerate progress for society. In that spirit, we have partnered with leading organizations dedicated to advancing research and science to initiate a global dialogue about how confidence in research has been affected by the pandemic and to identify practical solutions that can support researchers. A critical part of this initiative is Economist Impact’s Confidence in Research: Researchers in the Spotlight study to understand the experiences of researchers, their own confidence in the research process, and what skills, support, or incentive structures they need in an increasingly complex and public-facing environment.
The findings reveal the extent and nature of the impact of the pandemic on the research community: the prevalence of information, which underscores the importance of peer review and transparent study design as markers of confidence; the shocking online abuse targeted researchers and the disheartening widened inequalities in access to funding and resources for early career researchers, women, and researchers in the global south. Notably, researchers are concerned by the tension between awareness and understanding. Public attention on research has increased, bringing greater recognition and appreciation of research, but public understanding of how research is conducted has not risen in parallel. The findings show a clear call to equip researchers with the skills they need to communicate research with more clarity and confidence has come through in this study loud and clear.
Thanks to the invaluable input of our expert partners, countless academic leaders, and early career researchers around the world, Economist Impact has surfaced a range of potential interventions that can help address these new challenges faced by the research community. We believe this report can be a helpful stimulus as all stakeholders in research come together to turn recommendations into action. At Elsevier, we are committed to supporting the research community to tackle these challenges.
I would like to thank Economist Impact, SenseAbout Science, our global thought partner, all our regional convening partners, Economist Impact’s Global Advisory Board and Elsevier’s Global Expert Panel, and the thousands of academic leaders, scientists, and researchers who lent their time and invaluable perspectives to this important collaboration.