Producing knowledge in a pandemic: accounts of UK-based postdoctoral biomedical scientists of undertaking research during the COVID-19 pandemic

Jamie Beverstock, Martyn Pickersgill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

While far from the first pandemic to impact knowledge-production, the widely constructed singularity of the biosocial ramifications of the SARS-CoV-2 virus has produced a set of epistemic and social circumstances that are experienced by many as unique. In relation to biomedical research these include the reworking of the social, spatial, and temporal organisation of science through lab closures and social distancing requirements. Drawing on a small number of qualitative interviews rapidly conducted during a 2021 ‘lockdown’, this exploratory article reflects on how COVID-19 has shaped the research of postdoctoral UK-based biomedical scientists. We consider: (a) how challenges are constructed and negotiated, and (b) in relation to these, scientists’ account of why researchers might (not) ‘pivot’ towards COVID-19. Accordingly, this paper indicates how the experiential conditions stimulated by the pandemic interact with pre-existing professional discourses within biomedical science—e.g., in relation to funding and career strategy—to inform and delimit knowledge-production, and to substantiate particular practices. We suggest some of the ways in which future studies might develop our provisional findings to cast new light on the effects of the pandemic on biomedicine, as well as on the entangled social, economic, and epistemic dynamics of science more generally.

Original languageEnglish
Article number142
JournalHumanities and Social Sciences Communications
Volume9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 21 Apr 2022

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