Reaching At-Home Researchers: Tips for Societies and Publishers
In 2020, many researchers were forced to work from home (WFH) for a large part of the year, and the situation is recurring in 2021, with fresh Covid outbreaks and new lockdowns in different parts of the world.
In a 2021 study of WFH researchers, almost half reported reduced work efficiency. WFH has been particularly challenging for female and early career researchers as well as graduate students who have returned to homes in the Global South. During WFH, laboratory and field research tasks are obviously put on the back burner, and researchers devote time to catching up on the literature, data analysis, and writing. There’s a lot that publishers and societies can do to make peer-reviewed content easily accessible for a WFH audience.
Quick-to-process formats that allow multitasking
Younger researchers, particularly women, are more likely to be juggling childcare and work, resulting in lower productivity. Quick-to-process summaries of research, like infographics, help them stay on top of the latest findings without expending significant time in processing a lengthy research manuscript.
Podcasts and audiobooks also allow researchers to multitask while acquiring information, for activities like graduate school lectures and continuing education. Discussion-based podcasts can help at-home researchers cope with feelings of isolation from the scientific community, by providing them a semblance of the casual, yet meaningful conversations that take place at scientific conferences.
Videos are effective for summarizing the key takeaways of a study, thereby facilitating knowledge transfer. A large majority of video viewers prefer to watch without sound. Here’s where captions come in handy; in fact, a study by Verizon Media and Publicis Media found that 80% of viewers in the US are more likely to watch an entire video when it has captions.
Formats suitable for any kind of Internet connection
Researchers living in the Global South or even rural areas of the US often lack fast and stable Internet connections. They have difficulty accessing content like HD videos or livestreamed webinars. In fact, YouTube, Amazon, and Netflix announced in 2020 that they would reduce streaming quality worldwide, to lessen broadband strain. Organizers of conferences with livestreamed sessions and those publishing video summaries of research would do well to follow suit, by providing low-resolution options for video downloads.
Despite the many drawbacks of WFH, researchers are likely to prefer WFH or a hybrid home-office model in the future, even after lockdowns end. As they largely use time at home for reading the literature or writing, societies and publishers will find it worthwhile to make their content more accessible for an at-home audience.