UNT study finds academic professors around the world report struggle with productivity during pandemic

Monday, September 14, 2020 - 08:34

DENTON (UNT), Texas — Academic professors in the U.S. and abroad have found difficulties maintaining their scholarly productivity during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new study co-authored by University of North Texas Political Science Professor Marijke Breuning.

In May, Breuning teamed up with associate professors Christina Fattore of West Virginia University, Jennifer M. Ramos of Loyola Marymount University and Jamie E. Scalera of Georgia Southern University to survey professors, mostly in political science and international studies, about the impact the pandemic had brought to their work lives and scholarly research. The data collection came as governments globally had issued stay at home orders and many schools and daycares shut their doors, leaving scholars scrambling to adapt to virtual instruction and juggling work and caregiving responsibilities for those with children.

Breuning and her research partners expected to find that women would report more severe declines to their productivity, but instead their survey results revealed the pandemic’s affect in the academic community has been widespread across both genders.

Nearly 68 percent of the 1,003 respondents, regardless of gender or rank, said their academic productivity had decreased when compared to their productivity levels prior to the pandemic.

“These statistics show that the pandemic’s impact is much more comprehensive and has affected everybody,” Breuning said. “We expected women to be more worried than men, but we found that both reported a widespread concern for what’s next at a variety of levels.”

While responses didn’t seem to vary much between men and women, the results did show that scholars who were parents reported especially struggling with productivity and there was an overwhelming consensus across all respondents (91 percent) that people with young children at home were less likely to be productive. More than half (78 percent) also agreed that women were assuming most of the caregiving responsibilities.

Breuning said their survey results should be a cautionary note to higher education administrators.

“When the uncertainty is so widespread, if your policy response is only to one group, then you’re creating resentment on the part of those whose worries you haven’t addressed. In addition to making accommodations for people whose job security is on the line, administrators should also be cognizant of the fact that everybody feels unsure about what the future holds for their life and profession. It’s a less tangible policy response, but I believe it will matter,” Breuning said.

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