• COVID-19’s Potential Impact on Vision Scientists

    By Jean Shaw
    Selected and Reviewed By: Neil M. Bressler, MD, and Deputy Editors

    Journal Highlights

    JAMA Ophthalmology, August 2021

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    What impact has COVID-19 had upon the next generation of vision scientists? Last September, the Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (AEVR) convened a panel of early-stage investigators to hear their concerns about the potential impact of COVID-19 disruptions on the next generation of vision scientists. As Jorkasky et al. report, the early months of the pandemic were associ­ated with a substantial increase on the stress on the researchers, potentially threatening their productivity and, in some cases, their livelihood.

    The panel comprised 22 vision scientists who had yet to be awarded their first independent funding. The investigators, who had been nominated by their institutions, covered bench to bedside vision research. AEVR’s goal was to hear their concerns and prepare a video that would be distributed to members of the U.S. Congress.

    Challenges reported by the investi­gators included the following:

    • Patient-based clinical research: The shutdown stopped patient recruitment, enrollment, participation, and follow-up in its tracks. Other areas of clinical research—such as epidemiologic and artificial intelligence studies—also were affected.
    • Access to animal colonies and cell cultures: Both animals and cell cultures were lost during laboratory shutdowns.
    • Collaboration with other researchers: Research collaborations were stymied by myriad factors, including meeting cancellations and work restrictions that forced non–U.S.-born personnel to return to their country of origin.
    • Trainee education: This included reductions in training time as well as delays and limits affecting grants for training and career development.
    • Career pathways: Cutbacks in research time, missed grant cycles, and loss of grant and institutional support raised anxiety about future employment. Overall, the authors said, the prevailing mood was one of “punishing uncer­tainty.”

    Federal and private granting agencies may need to take these factors into account to retain talented early-stage vision researchers, the authors noted. 

    The original article can be found here.