Understanding the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Science and Research

Published: 2021-01-21

Welcome to 2021! As the world grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences, we will use the next few months’ blog posts to hear from a range of IFS community members, in response to the questions:

Nighisty Ghezae, IFS Director

  • In what specific ways has the COVID-19 pandemic been a setback for science and research in your country? In what ways a leap forward?

  • How has COVID-19 been affecting you?

Our first perspective is offered by Prof Malcolm Beveridge, IFS Board member.

I benefit from living in a wealthy western democracy, Scotland. I’m pretty much retired; I live outside a small town and have a spacious house and garden. I have few day-to-day worries, other than not being able to meet with my family and friends. I especially miss my new – my first – granddaughter, born ten months ago and whom I’ve only met on Zoom.

I’m one of the very fortunate, even within my own country, and recognise this.

In the bits and pieces of work I’ve been doing in recent months, I’ve been exchanging emails with colleagues and reading how COVID-19 has been affecting economies, the agriculture and fisheries sectors, and food supply chains. Hundreds of millions of women and men derive their livelihoods through producing, transporting, processing and trading fisheries and agricultural products. Whilst poverty and hunger have been decreasing steadily over the past two decades, COVID-19 is likely to have slowed or even halted progress. Further, the pandemic has also exposed weaknesses in the existing global food system, which increasing numbers of scientists argue is no longer fit for purpose[1]. In addition to the more than 800 million people who still suffer from food insecurity, many hundreds of millions more in both developed and developing countries consume low quality diets that cause micronutrient deficiencies and contribute to rising incidences of diet-related obesity and non-communicable diseases such as diabetes. Too much focus, they argue, is on feeding rather than nourishing people.

COVID-19 has further exposed a global food system that is not fit for purpose. It has disrupted supply lines, especially where men and women must work in crowded conditions in production (e.g., on fishing vessels), processing (meat packing plants), logistics (container ship crews) and markets.

Much of the work that IFS does in supporting young researchers targets improving production and processing of crops, forest products, livestock and aquatic foods, investments that in time can help improve the global food system. But many laboratories are closed or have restricted access and field work has been disrupted.

As a member of the IFS Board of Trustees, I know the organisation too has been affected. The IFS Secretariat is having to work from home and, despite regular meetings by social media, are missing the day-to-day interactions with colleagues essential to effective operation and to organisational morale. I can assure you, however, that they are doing their utmost to deliver as high quality a support service to grantees as ever.

So, how is your work progressing? Are you still able to get into the field and work in the laboratory as planned? Are you able to get equipment and supplies? Have exchanges with other scientists, especially mentors or technical experts (e.g., statisticians) been affected? All of us in the organisation are focused on supporting you as best we can. Let us know if we can do more.

With thanks 

Nighisty Ghezae



Post a comment

Allowed tags: <b><i><br>

> Back to top