Researching researchers: exploring the challenges of conducting research during a pandemic
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University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada
Alberta Health Service, Edmonton, Canada
University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada
Submission date: 2023-11-21
Final revision date: 2024-03-21
Acceptance date: 2024-04-17
Online publication date: 2024-06-10
Corresponding author
Tanya Beran   

University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada
Research assistants (RAs) are vital for the successful completion of research. When data collection and recruitment are dis-rupted, like during the COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying restrictions, the effects on RAs attempting to conduct re-search are unclear.

Participants and procedure:
This study explored RAs’ perspectives of conducting research during the COVID-19 pandemic. Five RAs who had begun collecting data at a mid-western children’s hospital on how a robot named MEDi® could help patients uphold health and safety procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic participated in semi-structured interviews.

Thematic analysis of the interview data identified four key themes (and sub-themes) that reflected RAs’ experiences of con-ducting research during the COVID-19 pandemic: inspiration and motivation; research barriers; human connections and relationships; and creativity and problem-solving. The first theme focused on the sources of RAs’ inspiration and motivation to participate in research; the second focused on the barriers that affected data collection and recruitment. The third theme described the impact that human connections and relationships had on the success of the research, and the final theme explored the RAs’ creativity and problem-solving approaches, which aided in navigating the challenges faced during the pandemic. The RAs overcame the challenges with positive attitudes, creativity, and collaboration.

Overall, the results reveal how the RAs explored creative strategies to adapt research methods to suit unanticipated circum-stances and develop interpersonal skills to facilitate participation in future research and career activities.

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