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UK Space Academic Institutions Covid-19 Survey

The Space Academic Network (SPAN) is working closely with the UK Space Agency (UKSA) to coordinate a survey of universities and research centres across the UK with regards to the impact of the Covid-19 virus on their space research activities. The survey is launched every two weeks and two rounds have been completed.

The dashboard produced by UKSA with support from Chiaki Crews, Andrew Holland and James Endicott in the School of Physical Sciences, has been presented at senior levels of UKSA and within the space sector, including at a meeting with the Science Minister, Amanda Solloway. The activity will continue for the foreseeable future as SPAN and the UKSA work to report on the impacts on the research community as restrictions and limitations are maintained through government guidelines.

The UKSA will be hosting a webinar with SPAN to engage with the space research community on the 2nd of June, to share the results from the survey, and to obtain direct feedback from the community.

Highlights from the first round of the survey are:

  • Short term (< 3months) working from home can be accommodated without major impacts on research, however, there are exceptions to this.
  • Impacts on teaching and assessment have been profound
  • Impacts on workload and productivity have been negative due to additional reporting, planning and adaptation of teaching and research, and also adaption of working conditions
  • Fears about negative impacts on future research activity are common for a variety of reasons: slow down of research funding and contract research, and reduction in productivity with a gradual return to normal work
  • Fears about re-direction of funding from space research to help pay for the COVID bill
  • Fears about the financial health of universities due to potential changes in student numbers, both international and domestic
  • There has been an increase in online learning, particularly in free training

The space research community is providing support in the following ways to address the pandemic:

  • Production of Personal Protective Equipment and sanitiser
  • Donation of PPE to local hospitals
  • Production of ventilator equipment
  • Repurposing research on air quality and data assimilation for pandemic modelling
  • Participation in VentilatorUK team with training, testing and calibration
  • Supporting training in digital skills to furloughed workers
  • Computing used in supporting of testing for Covid-19

There were 17 responses to the first round of the survey, and the hope is that this will steadily rise to reach 40, recognising that there are approximately 50 active universities and academic research laboratories in the UK.