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Objectives: There is a lack of knowledge about the challenges of researchers who continued in-person research during the early phases of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Design: Electronic survey assessing work-related exposure to COVID-19, logistical challenges, and procedural changes during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic on clinical research.

Setting: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute-sponsored Prevention and Early Treatment of Acute Lung Injury Clinical Trial Network Centers.

Subjects: Research staff at research Network Sites. Measurements and Main

Results: The 37-question survey was completed by 277 individuals from 24 states between 29 September 2020, and 12 December 2020, yielding a response rate of 37.7%. Most respondents (91.5%) indicated that non-COVID-19 research was affected by COVID-19 research studies. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, 20% of respondents were reassigned to different roles at their institution. Many survey takers were exposed to COVID-19 (56%), with more than 50% of researchers requiring a COVID-19 test and 8% testing positive. The fear of infection was 2.7-times higher compared to pre-COVID-19 times. Shortages of personal protective equipment were encountered by 34% of respondents, primarily due to lack of access to N95 masks, followed by gowns and protective eyewear. Personal protective equipment reallocation from research to clinical use was reported by 31% of respondents. Most of the respondents (88.5%), despite these logistical challenges, indicated their willingness to enroll COVID-19 patients.

Conclusions: During the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, members of the research network were engaged in COVID-19 research despite logistical challenges, limited access to personal protective equipment, and fear of exposure. The research network’s survey experience can inform ongoing policy discussions to create research enterprises that can dexterously refocus research to address the knowledge gaps associated with novel public health emergencies while mitigating the effect of pandemics on existing research projects and research personnel.

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