Research Continuity

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  • 1.  Covid-19 disproportionally affecting female researchers

    Posted 04-30-2020 10:02
    Edited by Chuck Kalish 04-30-2020 10:41
    Hi all, our publisher (Wiley) has asked SRCD to comment on reports that journals are seeing a real drop in submissions from women relative to men. This suggests that female scholars are taking a particularly strong hit to research productivity from the Covid-19 crisis.

    I would like to offer experiences/perspectives from our community. What do you think is going on? What other sorts of disproportionality are we experiencing (e.g., rich vs poor institutions), and most critically, what should SRCD and the publishing industry be doing about this?

    Please share your responses in this thread. I will collect into a commentary for Wiley (5/8). Let's continue the discussion, though, especially any ideas about how SRCD can respond and support the most effected members of our community.

    See this article from Inside Higher Ed as well as this one from The Lily. SRCD staff are looking at our submission data and will report findings here.

    Chuck Kalish
    Washington DC

  • 2.  RE: Covid-19 disproportionally affecting female researchers

    Posted 04-30-2020 12:25
    Hi Chuck,

    I know exactly what's happening--virtually all of my junior colleagues (at least 20-30 individuals) are having troubles managing home, teaching their children from home (with school requirements being overwhelming), in some cases dealing with relatives who have COVID and keeping up with their own school work (teaching classes remotely) and research productivity.

    In some cases the husbands/partners--also professionals--some in higher education, some out of work and some in business and industry are also working from home--seem to be sharing in the home duties--but the lion's share of "care taking" still falls on the women and here is what I am hearing:
    1. "I can manage multiple obligations better than my partner"
    2. " When it comes to choosing between my research program and the development and welfare of my family; my research program has to take a back seat--but I need to keep up a minimum of work to keep my job." 
    3. "I feel that I can't give up my role as a mother." 
    4. "I have a better sense of what children and family need"
    5. "If I don't take care of my kids schooling, laundry, shopping, cleaning and making dinner, it won't get done."

    In many cases, the partner may be a primary bread winner and works outside of academia--if someone's job has to be sacrificed, it will be the person who makes less money such as an academic.

    So these are females with younger children at home.

    Even women, such as myself, who have grown children outside of the home, the demands of being senior faculty with administrative obligations; buoying up younger faculty who are literally falling apart, buoying up students, RA's and Post-docs who struggling or adrift; attempting to gain command of online resources so data can be collected, managing grants, ect. the list goes on--the productivity takes a back seat.

    For me, and I bet for others in my position --if you are weighing publishing another paper with other's needs like, colleagues need me to advocate for them, or I have 10 letters of recommendation to write so my students can begin their career paths or attend administrative meetings to address university needs; which do you think I am going to choose. That's right. Whatever benefits the well-being of the most people. Is this the same decision-making process for men? Granted, I try to do it all as many of my female and male colleagues. But it's not easy. 

    And this applies to everyone:
    Collecting data is very difficult--especially if you are a developmental researcher. Administrative protocols take longer to process spending, IRB, ect. 

    Why is this not affecting males as much?  I am sure there are many males that are similarly affected. Are women finding it hard to let go of control of the family responsibilities? Are men not picking up the slack? Do men feel that their work is more important --children will be fine without all the attention?

    Is it the case that men who are highly ambitious tend to be in marriages where obligations are split between economically supporting the family done by one parent and taking care of the home done by the other parent? 

    Finally, we have to be careful perpetuating gender stereotypes. I referred to mothers, husbands, ect but should be using gender neutral terms like "Partners". Not every couple is a male-female pairing; indeed we have single individuals, and many other different types of pairs. We need to hear all stories.

    The article seem to be making a presumption (and me in this commentary) about who females are with and what they are doing in addition to their professional obligations. My experience is with women who have young children at home, mostly studying developmental psychology. But we need to hear from all on this question. 

    The STEM and Biomedical sciences are already under-representing women--so their situations must be even worse--as suggested by the article. 

    The bottom-line: Have things really changed for women? We fought for choice. Did we inadvertently fight for a multitude of responsibilities and obligations?  

    Women have good minds, do excellent science, are professionally active and have something to say. Do we have to say important things in high numbers or can our worth be measured by the quality of our production. 

    Breckie (Ruth) Church
    Northeastern Illinois University
    Chicago IL

  • 3.  RE: Covid-19 disproportionally affecting female researchers

    Posted 05-01-2020 11:52

    Hi Chuck and Breckie,

    In addition to your very thorough observations Breckie, I think it is important to also point out the gender differences in stress, stress management, and the resulting effect on mental health. Women are more likely to report stress and to feel they are not doing enough to manage stress and that can have a negative impact on mental health and burnout. I think the articles you referenced Chuck point to these tendencies. I think this may be affecting productivity for some women who are used to juggling many demands but still finding time somehow to do it all (e.g., squeezing in some writing time once the kids are in bed). 

    Now, however, I think the physical and emotional drain is just too much. Anecdotally, I have recently appreciated the need for a "reset" now and then-to allow myself times when there are no expectations, to just let things go for a day and focus on self-care (and my children of course). I feel much more refreshed and productive the next day. However, when I recently suggested this to a female colleague who was completely overwhelmed with homeschooling two children, a husband working full-time outside of the home, and many academic deadlines, her response was that there was just no way she could take that kind of time for herself right now.


    And so I think for many women, it is maybe more difficult than men to take that time for self-care, to allow themselves space to cope and grieve, which is counterproductive in terms of their research productivity if they're completely drained when they finally sit down to write. Breckie, as you point out, women often feel the need to be the orchestrator of the household and while men are happy to step in, women often carry that burden (often by choice) of being the person to organize it all.

    These are just my observations (except the research on gender and stress) and so I hope I am not making gender stereotypes here. We should definitely acknowledge that these work-family dynamics may operate differently in heterosexual and homosexual couples or in singles, who face a somewhat different challenge-is it more difficult for a woman to be alone during a pandemic than a man?




    Virginia Tompkins
    The Ohio State University-Lima
    Lima OH

  • 4.  RE: Covid-19 disproportionally affecting female researchers

    Posted 05-01-2020 12:25

    Amen Virginia!!  Thank you for your thoughtful insights--and great reference to research on stress and stress management!!  Yes while many women toil away not wanting to waste a single second to get everything done, are reporting that their husbands have no issues watching their favorite TV show, movie or reading the paper or a book; sometimes never thinking twice about even having their kids share in this "reset activity."

    Hey how about doing a puzzle with the kids as a "problem-solving" activity? 

    I think you are so correct--resetting--just a full day with nothing to do--can actually make us more productive--is there research on this? 

    Everybody take 24 hrs (at least) this weekend to reset. Monday you will get a lot more done!

    Stay safe and healthy


    R.B. Church
    Professor Psychology
    Director NIH MARC Program
    Director NSF Science of LearningThe role of gesture in mathematics learning: From research to practice
    Coordinator for Program Assessment Assessment Information 
    Bernard J. Brommel Distinguished Research Professor


  • 5.  RE: Covid-19 disproportionally affecting female researchers

    Posted 05-01-2020 16:32
    I appreciate the comments shared by Breckie and Virginia. As a mom to an 18-month old kiddo, who has now been without daycare for about six weeks, I completely agree with a lot of the points raised. Even with a supportive partner who is sharing in the childcare and household tasks, we know (and there has been quite a bit written) about how invisible labor impacts women more and the toll that this can take on our productivity and well-being. I hope that men will also share their perspective and feedback on this problem for the SRCD commentary. I look forward to hearing about the submission reports based on SRCD journals.  

    Guadalupe Espinoza
    Fullerton CA

  • 6.  RE: Covid-19 disproportionally affecting female researchers

    Posted 05-02-2020 11:32

    Thanks for sharing these articles. I think the other posters have brought up some important points regarding possible reasons for these discrepancies and the need for additional research. Of course, the academics who are struggling the most may also have the most trouble finding time to participate.

    It seems that there are many people who recognize that there's a problem. For instance, I've heard faculty members from several universities mention that their administrators have explicitly acknowledged that this can be a challenging time for those with caregiving responsibilities of any sort and/or those with health issues. But knowing that there's a problem is different from taking action to support those who are struggling.

    The most that I've heard is that some universities have encouraged faculty members who are struggling to take an additional year before they come up for promotion to associate or full professor. At some level, I appreciate the gesture, but it also makes me wary that delaying a year also means waiting a year for a raise, and given that raises are built off of one's prior salary, there are long-term effects for that kind of delay.

    At the individual level, I know that there are many researchers like Ruth are supporting those who are struggling by taking on additional responsibilities. That's wonderful and appreciated. Like Ruth, I wonder how gender balanced those choices are (and how prevalent).

    At the level of SRCD and other publishing industries, I'm not sure, and I'm curious what ideas others have. I've personally wondered if review requests could include a recognition that this is a challenging time along with a personal appeal for those who have fewer challenges to consider helping more.

    Candice Mills
    The University of Texas at Dallas
    Twitter: @CandiceMMills

  • 7.  RE: Covid-19 disproportionally affecting female researchers

    Posted 05-03-2020 14:16
    Thank you all for sharing. This is a significant problem that has been exacerbated by the crisis (as it has for most inequalities). An additional concern is that this has expanded the inequality in invisible labor at the department and university level. How many have been asked to take on additional duties or felt the need to do so because their male colleagues have not -- e.g., committees for learning transfer, student or faculty support, checking in with graduate students, creating support networks/check-ins for students, etc.? As we know, there already big gender differences even in the number of times students informally ask faculty for emotional and social support.

    Andrew Fuligni
    Los Angeles CA

  • 8.  RE: Covid-19 disproportionally affecting female researchers

    Posted 05-11-2020 12:29
    Thanks for the comments and feedback everyone. We've had a chance to look at some of the submission data from Child Development, and do not see any changes in distributions of gender of corresponding authors just comparing Jan/Feb with Mar/Apr.  We also do not see changes in country of origin.

    This is very preliminary, but we'll keep monitoring.

    Chuck Kalish
    Washington DC

  • 9.  RE: Covid-19 disproportionally affecting female researchers

    Posted 05-21-2020 21:35
    Hi Chuck,

    Is it possible to compare this year's data to the data from last year's data? I've seen a few twitter threads going around in the last day or two that have done this, like Thalia Goldstein's thread:

    Thank you!

    Candice Mills
    The University of Texas at Dallas
    Twitter: @CandiceMMills

  • 10.  RE: Covid-19 disproportionally affecting female researchers

    Posted 05-26-2020 09:07

    Hi Candice,

    We compared Jan/Feb 2020 with Mar/April 2020. I agree Mar/April 2019 would be a better basis. Thanks for the pointer to Thalia's tweet. Child Development is actually in the same boat as we don't collect gender information for authors (I just had to guess at first names). We will see how things develop over the summer.




    Chuck Kalish, Ph.D. Director for Science

    Society for Research in Child Development


    Phone: 202-800-3256



    Address: 1825 K Street NW Suite 325, Washington DC 20006

    Pronouns: He/Him/His, They/Them/Their