Shifting goalposts: Research in the time of coronavirus


The COVID-19 pandemic has turned life, travel, and the economy upside down all around the world. But what impact has it had on research and research practices, in general?
Dr. Oldenburg commented on some unexpected ways in which the pandemic has affected how scientists conduct their research.
Items that were readily available before the pandemic, such as laboratory or clinical trial supplies, have become more difficult to get hold of due to restrictions on international movement.
“It’s interesting how many things we took for granted before Covid-19 — you know, moving of supplies,” Dr. Oldenburg remarked in the interview. What else has changed in the landscape of research as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic?
With the world facing a new coronavirus, the immediate focus across the research community is rightly so on finding vaccines and treatments that will work effectively against SARS-CoV-2. But what has happened to the rest of the medical research centered around equally important causes? After the pandemic started, Covid-19-related research almost monopolized the publication’s focus, to the detriment of other topics.
A new study investigates how effective face masks of different designs are at inhibiting the transfer of airborne droplets from coughs and sneezes. There has been relatively little official guidance about which mask designs provide the strongest barriers to infection, leading amateur mask-makers to improvise. A new study has used laser visualization experiments to demonstrate the effectiveness of homemade masks of various designs.
These masks are roughly as good at preventing the spread of infection as commercially produced cone-shaped masks. The researchers used a laser sheet setup, which is commonly employed to study liquid mechanics, to observe the behavior of airborne respiratory droplets that could, outside the lab, contain SARS-CoV-2. A study looks at the negative impact of stereotyping on personal motivation.
For many people there is a growing recognition that people of color and those belonging to marginalized groups are confronted on a daily basis with a society that undermines them.
A new study suggests that for those on the receiving end of such discriminatory attitudes, dealing with negative stigmatization may actually alter how the brain functions. In the new study, exposure to negative stereotyping changed the behavior of the subcortical nucleus accumbens, a brain area associated with the anticipation of reward and punishment.