Researchers from Duke, UNC, Wake Forest Discuss Research Resilience During COVID-19

July 17, 2020

On July 9, Duke CTSI partnered with the North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences (TraCS) Institute and the Wake Forest Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) to host “Research Resilience in the Age of COVID-19: Insights from Sponsors and Investigators.” The virtual event focused on providing guidance and reassurance to junior investigators during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

During a sponsor panel, speakers from the NIH, Burroughs-Wellcome Fund, and Doris Duke Charitable Foundation discussed how research funding has been impacted by COVID-19. Dr. Victoria McGovern, senior program officer at the Burroughs-Wellcome Fund, reminded researchers to be patient when dealing with funders, since everyone is doing their best to deal with unprecedented circumstances.

“Funders understand the pressures you are under,” Dr. McGovern said. “As much as you can, try to be loose and be ready.”

Senior researchers from each of the institutions also spoke about how early-career investigators can manage challenges and pivot their research direction and shared lessons from personal experiences. Dr. Donald McClain, director of the Wake Forest CTSI, commented that he had weathered many economic downturns, and senior researchers like him are available to help answer any questions.

“Change can be a threat or an opportunity,” Dr. McClain said. “What drives us is the joy of finding things out and the desire to improve the planet.”

Many of the researchers spoke about how they’ve had to pivot their research focus at least once in their career. Dr. Steven R. Patierno, deputy director of the Duke Cancer Institute, said he’s essentially had a career of pivots.

“People say if you want to win the Nobel Prize, you have to spend your life working on one thing,” Dr. Patierno said. “But being able to balance practicality with vision and passion is a necessary component of career evolution.”

Full slide presentations and recordings can be found on the CTSI website.