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5 Tips for effectively conducting academic research studies during and beyond COVID19

It has been over a year since the first human case of SARS-CoV-2, also named COVID19 was discovered. The pandemic brought in a paradigm shift in the way people and businesses communicated and collaborated with each other. Not unlike many other industries, Scientific, Academic and Scholarly studies have also been affected by the pandemic. As per market research firm, BioInformatics, a partner of The Science Advisory Board, 48% of respondents who participated in the survey indicated that their labs were shut down due to concerns about COVID-19. This impact affects academic laboratories (56%) much more than pharmaceutical or industry laboratories (27%).

In this blog, we will be sharing with you 5 tips to keeping up with your academic research during and beyond COVID19.

Virtual Reality for conducting research remotely

Scientists and Academicians have long been exploring the perfect way for using Virtual Reality as a tool to conduct studies. COVID19 has propelled the thought into practicality. Before the pandemic, conducting research with human participants had been the norm, but with labs getting shut down, researchers have to look for digital tools like VR to continue conducting studies remotely.

With HMD's gaining popularity and families spending most of their time at home, researchers can build immersive simulations and directly send them to VR users. This way, researchers can reach out to a broader audience rather than restricting themselves to undergrad and grad students. One of the main advantages of using VR for research studies is that it allows for authentic data collection over traditional methodologies, as the test subjects are within an immersive environment, the user's attention is completely focused on the content and is not getting distracted by the sounds of the physical world. Further, with eye-tracking capabilities, researchers can track visual behavior, eye movements, and reaction time of the users.

Desktop Simulations for non-VR users

As Virtual Reality is gradually gaining prominence, desktops and laptops are still widely available home technologies that can be put to use for conducting behavioral studies. There are two ways with which researchers can go about it. Firstly, creating immersive and engaging simulations using game engines like Unity and directly sharing the file with the participants, which can be downloaded on their laptops or desktops.

On the other hand, in scenarios where some of the users aren't tech-savvy, a WebGL link can be shared directly to the participant's phones or desktop and opened using a web browser like Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. In both cases, researchers can gather large quantities of data efficiently.

Video Conferencing for Qualitative Data Collection

In a situation like COVID, video conferencing tools like Zoom and Skype can be a silver lining for researchers to conduct research studies remotely. Researchers can conduct virtual interviews of groups of participants or individual participants. Although video conferencing tools provide a cost-effective and time-effective way to conduct research, unlike VR, it isn't spatial and interactions are confined to a grid of images rather than around a table like conversations. One of the main advantages for researchers using Video conferencing tools is not worrying about logistical factors like geographical distance and funding participants for travel.

Adhering to Research Ethics

Collecting consumer's data via VR or through video conferencing interactions needs special attention and care. A consent form should be issued to the participants before conducting the research, highlighting the requirements like recording and storing of personal information. Researchers should undertake Data Protection Impact Assessments and Ethical Impact Assessments to ensure the responsible use of such tools and to develop trust with the remote participants.

Laboratory Safety and Sanitization

Researchers looking forward to opening up their research labs must follow proper control and prevention protocols. Studies that require the need of a Focus Group, should start with identifying the right number of human subjects to be invited within the room. Further, equipment such as computers, virtual reality headsets, or any other objects like chairs, desktops, doorknobs must be cleaned regularly. Additionally, what are the ways to get participants to the research location? Moreover, are participants required to wear any PPE kit like gloves or mask, or both? A researcher should maintain a checklist to ensure that the research is conducted effectively and seamlessly.

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