Background: It remains unclear to what extent the SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the normal progression of biomedical and medical science graduate programs and if there was a lasting impact on the quality and quantity of supervision of PhD-students. To date, multiple editorials and commentaries indicate the severity of the disruption without providing sufficient evidence with quantifiable data.
Methods: An online survey was submitted to the administrative offices of biomedical and medical PhD-programs at eight major universities in Sweden to gauge the impact of the pandemic on the students. It consisted of multiple-choice and open-ended questions where students could provide examples of positive and/or negative supervision strategies. Open answered questions were coded as either examples of positive or negative support.
Results: PhD students were divided into two groups: those with improved or unchanged supervision during the pandemic (group 1, n = 185), versus those whose supervision worsened (group 2, n = 69). Group 1 received more help from supervisors and more frequent supervision via both online and alternative platforms (email/messages and telephone). There was no significant difference in educational-stage, gender or caretaking responsibilities between the groups.
Conclusions: It is important for the scientific community to learn how to provide the best possible supervision for PhD students during the pandemic. Our data suggests that more frequent supervision, and using a diverse array of meeting platforms is helpful. In addition, it is important for the students to feel that they have their supervisor's emotional support. Several students also expressed that they would benefit from an extension of their PhD programs due to delays caused by the pandemic.
Keywords: Biomedical science; COVID-19; Graduate program; Medical sciences training; PhD.