Early career researchers and the pandemic

funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

Harbingers-2 is a continuation of a world-wide project we began in 2015: Harbingers — a longitudinal study of 'digital natives', young researchers who had yet to achieve established or tenured positions. Harbingers-2 takes this work forward in association with the University of Tennessee and with funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

Once again we will be studying the work lives, prospects and scholarly communication, behaviour and attitude of today’s novice researchers. However, Harbingers-2 — will do so with the express purpose of discovering how the pandemic will have impacted on the cohort that constitutes a most vulnerable generation of researchers.

Led by David Nicholas the international research team includes: Abrizah Abdullah, Suzie Allard, Blanca Rodríguez-Bravo, Eti Herman, Hamid R Jamali, Galina Serbina, David Sims, Marzena Świgoń, Carol Tenopir, Anthony Watkinson, Jie Xu, and Chérifa Boukacem-Zeghmouri.

A study of change in ECRs' employment status, careers and scholarly communication behaviour and attitudes

An investigation that seeks to establish what the new scholarly normal is going to look like in a world of pandemic-wrought changes and to establish how the future of the scientific enterprise will unfold in these crucial and pivotal times, as seen through the lens of tomorrow’s future professors and leading scientists and social scientists. Building upon and extending the 4-year longitudinal Harbingers study of ECRs we will be studying the work lives, prospects and scholarly communication behaviours and attitudes of today’s novice researchers. However, Harbingers-2 will do so with the express purpose of discovering how the pandemic will have impacted on the cohort that constitutes the biggest and most vulnerable generation of researchers.

Thus, the longitudinal work CIBER have conducted with ECRs in helping to determine whether their millennial beliefs are changing the face of scholarly communication will be continued over the next two years (2020–2022) to include the monitoring of the effects of the pandemic and whether it is accelerating or hindering change, altering the nature of change or giving rise to additional and different changes. We shall also seek to establish how the challenges to the scholarly undertaking, brought about by the pandemic, affected the diverse populations among the ECRs and how they were dealt with in different countries: have the rich become richer and the poor even poorer? How do developed/developing countries fare in result? What lessons can be learnt from different national and institutional policies aimed at warding off the danger of the present-day cohort of ECRs being rendered the lost generation of the pandemic-riddled scholarly world? Where, in these circumstances, do ‘best practices’ lie? The study will feature three sets of repeat interviews, conducted periodically over two years with around 170 ECRs from the sciences and social sciences from the US, UK, China, France, Poland, Malaysia, Spain and Russia, capped by a questionnaire survey to scale up the interview findings to a larger and more international and discipline-diverse population of ECRs.

Impact & pressure

Writing for the LSE Impact Blog David Nicholas suggests that where pressures from the pandemic have been felt most acutely, particularly in the UK, US and France, it has often aligned with perceptions of ongoing structural issues within academia.

CIBER Research Ltd.

1 Westwood Farmhouse



RG14 7RU

tel: +44 (0)1635 42719

Office @


Project & Publicity

The Project

National Project Annoucements

🇨🇳 China


🇫🇷 France

Pour plus d’informations

🇨🇳 Malaysia

Kajian cabaran pandemik terhadap kerjaya penyelidik muda

🇵🇱 Poland

Więcej informacji, Polska

🇷🇺 Russia

исследование о влиянии пандемии на карьеру молодых исследователей

🇪🇸 Spain

Se puede encontrar más información, española

🇬🇧 UK

An Introduction to the Project

🇺🇸 US

Pandemic Reports

These are direct and personal comments from the our ‘foreign correspondents’ regarding how they think things are in their country in terms of the impact of the pandemic on universities and researchers. We shall of course being investigating the situation more thoroughly over the next two years and monitoring change and will provides updates here.

Country Reports November 2020

Russia November 2020


Research Ethics

Project schedule

updated: 2020-11-04

Interview Schedule 1: 2020-12-02

Project Publications

Project Reports

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

Harbingers-2 has been funded by a grant (2020-14034) from The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to the University of Tennessee to study the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on the scholarly communication practices of early career researchers around the world.

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation is a philanthropic, not-for-profit grant-making institution based in New York City. Established in 1934 by Alfred Pritchard Sloan Jr., then-president and chief executive officer of General Motors, the foundation makes grants in support of original research and education in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and economic performance.