The pandemic gave scientific research greater public visibility but created expectations around speed and certainty. Open science and data sharing accelerated, and scientists used social media to share findings, fuel cross-disciplinary collaboration, and unpack the complexities of the pandemic to a concerned public. Tensions emerged between the way research is conducted and the desire of the public, policymakers and the media for certainty, simple stories and clear conclusions.
In 2021, Elsevier collaborated with global policy and research leaders to survey and explore the impact of the pandemic on researcher behaviours and perspectives and to identify solutions to support researchers in this new landscape.
Misinformation: More than 2/3 of respondents indicated increasing importance of distinguishing quality research from misinformation; public attention and concerns about misinformation may cause researchers to adopt more cautious research practices and rethink their chosen topics.
Peer Review: For 74% of the researchers surveyed, peer-reviewed journal publication is the main criterion of reliability. More than 52% believe that the pandemic has reinforced the importance of publishing research early, before peer review.
Researcher Roles: 23% consider fighting against disinformation to be a main role in society. 51% feel responsible for participating in online debate, and 32% of respondents have experienced, or know of a close colleague who has experienced, abuse after posting research online.
Trust: Less than 40% believe that a better public understanding of how research is conducted will be the pandemic’s legacy. Policymaker engagement, communication support, and incentive reforms appear important to leverage increased public attention without undermining trust in research.
Given tensions between disciplinary traditions and public expectations, what is the research library’s role in a credible research ecosystem? Can the library leverage traditional strengths in curation and information literacy and further assist researchers by supporting new skills and services to address new tensions and demands?