Girls, mother and father, and early profession ecology school hardest hit by COVID-19

[I…Just…Can’t…I Really…Can’t…-cr]


Research news

In April 2020, Lise Aubry learned that her children’s daycare in Fort Collins would be closed for a few weeks. Aubry, an assistant professor in the Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology at Colorado State University, and her husband, Professor Dave Koons, began taking care of their two children at home and responsibilities at the age of 4 months and 4 years juggling for work.

Aubry said she was happy after a successful day of balancing these duties early after working at least six hours.

“When I thought about the day, I felt pretty good,” said Aubry, also an instructor for the Graduate Degree Program in Ecology at CSU. “But I realized that there may be other people in the university environment – single parents, young teachers – who really had problems.”

Aubry decided to conduct a survey of similar faculties in the US to see how they had been affected by COVID-19. She teamed up with Professor Zhao Ma from Purdue University and Theresa Laverty, a postdoctoral fellow at CSU, as both have experience designing surveys.

The results “Effects of COVID? 19 on the Faculty of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in the United States ”were recently published in Ecological Applications, a journal of the Ecological Society of America.

Among the results, the team said that the majority of the more than 600 faculties that responded to the survey were negatively impacted on a personal and professional level and struggled to find a healthy work-life balance.

Aubry said female faculties, junior researchers, and those who work as supervisors have been hardest hit by the pandemic. In addition, people who did not have access to a private space that could be used as a home office were significantly more dissatisfied with their work-life balance.

The researchers hope administrators will use this data when discussing faculty promotions or applications for office, and that the study will also increase appreciation for the problems faced by the faculty during the pandemic.

Aubry said she also sees the survey as a “manifesto, a record of what we are experiencing” that will be important as we recover from the “massive blow COVID-19 has caused the careers and personal lives of many people “.

The research provides more evidence of the effects of the pandemic

To conduct the survey, the research team used a list from the National Research Council to target 94 PhD programs in ecology and evolutionary biology in the United States.

More than 600 faculties responded with a response rate of more than 23%.

Ma, a university researcher in the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources at Purdue University, said what the team discovered complements the existing evidence and increases recognition of the effects of COVID-19 in an academic setting.

“Female and junior faculty members, people with more responsibility for children or older relatives, are more affected and stressed,” she said.

“We’re talking about the ‘leaky pipeline’ and why women are gradually disappearing into STEM fields,” Ma said. “When you become a full professor, you ask yourself, ‘Where did the women go? ‘The pandemic will most likely worsen what we saw. “

“This will affect the faculty for years to come and the long-term implications are worrying,” she said. “This has to be addressed by the university management so that the faculty can continue to be successful.”

Researchers said they are seeing serious effects on graduate and postdoctoral students as well. Ma said she spends more time mentoring students and postdocs than she did before the pandemic, which is affecting research activities.

“You are so worried and stressed,” she said. “It’s already stressful at this particular time in your career. They don’t know what can happen after the pandemic, whether their funding will continue, whether they have a job, or what the job market will be like. Our survey really documents the need to study the long-term effects. “

Afraid of younger researchers

As a member of the research team, Laverty is one of these young researchers. Her postdoc position in the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Biology ends in May 2021, and she is already worried about that.

“It is definitely stressful to be in the job market,” she said. “I don’t have the same domestic life as Lise and Zhao, both with children at home. However, the effects of the pandemic will have an impact on young researchers in the next few years. “

According to Laverty, the team found that options like pausing a pause on the tenure clock might be helpful for some faculties, but promotions should be handled on a case-by-case basis.

“Rather than making blanket statements or guidelines, we propose that universities recognize the difficulties faced by the faculty, particularly women,” she said. “Administrators need to recognize that what happens will affect tenure and promotion requests.”

“Suck it up, cupcake”

As part of the survey, Aubry and the team added an open comment box that was filled in by a third of respondents. Some faculties replied with one line, while others retyped pages.

Aubry said the comments were insightful – ranging from thoughts about raising older children at home, balancing work and life as a single parent, to the need for increased student care – and were grouped by topic in the research report.

“A large proportion of those surveyed were full professors, and I appreciated the recognition they received for being comfortable working from home, but they were concerned for their students and younger colleagues,” she said. “It has shown that our larger community of ecologists and evolutionary biologists is not only resilient but also sensitive, and we need empathy now more than ever.”

On the flip side, the scientists also received some negative comments, including a faculty member whose advice was, suck it up, cupcake, we’re all together, so what’s the big deal?

Aubry said this person couldn’t be more wrong. Not everyone is equally affected by the pandemic. “


From EurekAlert!

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