Impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic on surgical research and lessons for the future

Surgery. 2021 Feb;169(2):257-263. doi: 10.1016/j.surg.2020.09.012. Epub 2020 Sep 19.


Background: The current coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on all physicians and has resulted in dramatic changes to clinical and research operations. No study has yet looked at the impact of coronavirus disease 2019 on the surgical research community. In this study, we sought to understand the impact of the pandemic and its associated restrictions on academic surgeons.

Methods: We surveyed members of the Association for Academic Surgery and the Society of University Surgeons. Survey questions included demographics, current challenges to basic and clinical research activities, attitudes toward remote work and productivity maintenance, and the solutions implemented to maintain productivity.

Results: Of 301 respondents, 70% cited a negative impact on research productivity due to mandatory building shutdowns, minimized personnel as a result of social distancing, and suspensions of animal work and clinical trials, with senior faculty and division chiefs and chairs more likely to report a negative impact (P = .001). Only 11% of respondents are documenting their financial losses, and only 19% indicated they received appropriate guidance regarding why and how to monitor the financial impact of the pandemic. Researchers have attempted to maintain research productivity through a focus on remote work, including manuscript writing, grant writing, and data analysis. Some participants have found silver linings, including more time to dedicate to research and family as a result of fewer clinical duties.

Conclusion: Productivity strategies developed during the pandemic, including writing, remote work and meetings, and structured scheduling, are lessons that will allow the surgical research community to be resilient in the face of future disruptions.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Biomedical Research*
  • COVID-19 / epidemiology*
  • Efficiency, Organizational
  • Faculty, Medical
  • Humans
  • Pandemics*
  • Surgeons
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States / epidemiology