Survey Data Highlight Community Concerns About COVID Closures, Disruptions

The American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS), Biodiversity Collections Network (BCoN), Natural Science Collections Alliance (NSC Alliance), and Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections (SPNHC) surveyed individuals affiliated with US biodiversity science collections to better understand the effects of COVID-19 related disruptions and closures on biodiversity research and education collections, and the people who use and care for these scientific resources. The survey was conducted in April 2020.

Individuals working in biodiversity collections were invited to complete a 23-question survey. No identifying information about the individual or institution was requested.

More than 390 individuals completed the survey. Survey analyses should take into account that individuals who were already laid off or furloughed by the time the survey opened may not have responded.

Results include:

  1. 96% of natural history collections were unavailable for use in April.
  2. Most of the scientific collections reported some regular monitoring of resources, but less than 30% were being monitored for pests – a significant threat to collections.
  3. More than 90% of respondents were working from home, mostly on some aspect of data transcription based on specimen images captured prior to the shutdown.
  4. When asked about chief concerns arising from a 1-3 month closure:
    • Just under 64% were worried about their ability to provide vital research resources;
    • Just under 49% were worried about a loss of funding for collections care materials and supplies;
    • Just over 47% were concerned about their ability to provide outreach opportunities for the public;
    • Nearly 47% were concerned about the loss of staff because of budget cuts;
    • 43.5% were concerned about their ability to meet existing grant and contract deadlines.

Survey results are available.

Follow-up surveys will be conducted to understand the effects of budget reductions that collections may experience, and the impact of COVID-19 prevention measures on scientific collections management and research productivity.