The onset of the pandemic enforced a sudden deviation from the taken-for-granted ways of conducting research. Research teams had to re-organise abruptly and adapt to the new circumstances. New workflows were developed, some of which were even experienced as more effective. Nevertheless, some of the drastic constraints cannot be compensated. These include a lack of informal communication during experimentation due to contact restraints, the lack of access to off-site research objects due to travel restrictions, postponements of hiring, limited opportunities to train newly hired researchers, or reduced opportunities to learn new methods.
These situations can be compared to those of researchers who try to continue their work during a period of unemployment. Many researchers who become unemployed due to the expiry of temporary contracts continue research work while unemployed to ensure re-entry into the academic labour market. However, they face limits such as loss of contact with peers and limited access to objects or instruments due to the formal exclusion from a research position.
This raises the question of how the modifications of conditions of research caused by spontaneous pandemic-induced restrictions or unemployment influence scientific practice and researchers’ careers. It can be assumed that a change in research conditions can lead to a change of research content: research objectives may be adapted or abandoned. The diminished or delayed production of publishable results may translate into a limited ability to publish and a declining recognition of researchers by their scientific community. The attainment of further organisational positions, which are important for one's career, may be at risk.
In this talk we will contribute to answering these questions by comparing first results of two ongoing studies comparing different research fields – one investigating researchers affected by the pandemic, and the other about unemployed researchers. We will juxtapose empirical findings from qualitative interviews with researchers, whose research conditions and research practices were changed, and connect this to their assessment of the ability to continue their research.