How COVID-19 has changed our research
We are in our 15th week of working at home, and this has now become business as usual for many of us. We meet at a virtual watercooler (on MS Teams) each day, and regularly see each other on Zoom for meetings as we navigate COVID-19. There has been an uptick in cases in Victoria over the last week or so, so just as we thought we might resume research on campus, it looks like it may be a little while yet!
While there are significant challenges to continuing research under current pandemic restrictions, we have also seen some benefits. Our treatment study involving children has continued as therapists moved to delivering parent-mediated intervention remotely. The benefits of this shift include facilitating skill generalisation into the home and the reduced need to travel. Indeed, the move to telehealth and online research will be particularly beneficial for under-served communities and those living in rural and regional areas here and elsewhere, and some of our researchers are exploring this further.
Research is continuing when it can be executed safely. For example, studies with autistic adolescents and adults involving online questionnaires or interviews are progressing, albeit with fewer completions than usual. However, we are exercising caution with studies on mental health and wellbeing. Given the widespread impacts of COVID-19 on the mental health of ordinary citizens, these studies are suspended until we reach ‘normalcy,’ whenever that will be!
It is quite amazing just how much work we all do online now, which has not only enabled us to work remotely, but also to undertake more international collaboration. Our autistic researchers also tell us how much this suits them, with requirements to navigate the social world lessened as a result. Importantly, remaining competitive in this COVID-19 environment requires scientists to be nimble, resilient, strategic and innovative, which will ultimately serve to expand future contributions to society.