7. July 2020

Covid-19 worsens the already precarious scenario for scientists on short-term contracts.

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the need for research has perhaps never been so evident. Faced with an unknown enemy, we are relying on researchers to produce vaccines, antibody tests and teach us more about how to tackle this new virus.

“Scientists are given very little credit for the work that they have done in such a short period of time,” says Prof Mary Anne O’Connell, an Irish senior research group leader in molecular biology working at CEITEC (the Central European Institute of Technology) in the Czech Republic. Her research laboratory was among many that volunteered to conduct tests for Covid-19 when the virus first struck.

“Scientists have isolated Covid-19, sequenced it, studied it in different cell lines under different conditions. Currently they are working to develop a vaccine against it and if that is not possible to find, they will find some drugs that will lessen its impact on patients,” she says.

It’s not only biomedical scientists that are in high demand – researchers are needed to evaluate the impact of Covid-19 on the economy, the climate, society and on our mental health and wellbeing.

But as the world leans on research to provide us with the answers to these questions, the pending financial crisis is likely to put even more pressure on a system that’s already under strain.

Economic recessions don’t often lead to a boost in research spending, and the sector is already underfunded. Although the number of people with PhDs grew by 38 per cent in OECD countries between 2000 and 2009, government-funded research spending in these countries has only risen by 10 per cent in the last 20 years. The mismatch has meant that researchers have become increasingly dependent on temporary and short-term contracts, leaving them without job stability and without clear career paths.

The full text can be found HERE

Source: The Irish Times

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