Nearly a third of scientists could leave neuroscience research due to COVID-19

On 18th June, the British Neuroscience Association (BNA) released its survey results into the future of neuroscience after COVID-19, raising serious concerns over the future of vital research into the nervous system and its disorders.

Over 400 neuroscience researchers UK-wide responded to the survey, representing a variety of neuroscience research settings and career stages. The findings show a significantly high number of researchers have been affected by the impact of COVID-19, with nearly a third of researchers considering leaving neuroscience as a result.

Download report and full survey results here

Key findings:

  • 32% are considering leaving neuroscience research as a result of COVID-19, with over a quarter (27%) considering leaving research altogether
  • Around 88% have seen a negative impact on the overall progress of their research, with 46% viewing this as strongly negative.
  • Over a quarter (28%) have requested further support from their funder/s. Of these, around 47% are still awaiting a response.
  • Around 80% are concerned their research will be hindered by insufficient funding.
  • Over 85% believe that COVID-19 will have a negative impact on the neuroscience research sector as a whole.

In an urgent response to the findings, the BNA has already written a letter (click to download) to the Minister for Science, Research and Innovation, Amanda Solloway MP. In the near future, we will continue to engage with and work with funders, following on from our request for support at the start of lockdown.  

Commenting on the survey results, BNA President, Annette Dolphin, said: “It’s vital we understand the effect that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on current neuroscience research and on the future of the field. The range of concerns and issues highlighted by this survey shows the uncertainty facing neuroscientists, and the potentially devastating impact on this essential research into the nervous system and its disorders.

“Early in lockdown, the BNA wrote to research funders requesting they provide further support in order to keep neuroscience research on track. Going forward, the results of our survey provide important insight into how we can best represent the voice of the neuroscience community with universities, funders, employers and government, and provide the support researchers need, now and in the future.”

What some of our respondents are saying. . .

I might be forced out of science. My fellowship was for 20 months, I was 5 months in when the labs were closed – I’m not sure I’m going to get enough data for papers and follow on funding.” Early Career Research in molecular biology:

The uncertainty about when we can return to testing human participants will almost certainly have some seriously negative consequences for me and my research, but I am more concerned about how it is going to affect my junior colleagues: to our knowledge our PhD students’ studentships are not going to be extended to compensate for time lost unable to collect data. This is a very significant weight to expect our junior colleagues to shoulder.” Lecturer in human experimental medicine

[I’m considering] changing research type from face-to-face/neuroimaging to more distanced and qualitative work” Postgraduate researcher in human behaviour

I think a lack of funding opportunities could make it very difficult for early career researchers to progress in academia. There will be less opportunities and if they are competing against labs which are already established it will be very difficult to win grants. The knock-on effect is that they stay in postdoc positions (which there will be less available of) and they may out-compete newer postdocs based on experience or they leave research. The government must increase funding to help mitigate the impact of COVID-19. If the pandemic has done nothing, it has highlighted how crucial scientists are and they must be supported during this difficult time.” Early Career Researcher in animal behaviour