Overline: Survey
Headline: Corona Crisis Complicates Involvement of Stakeholders in Research Projects

In EU research projects, the involvement of stakeholders, such as NGOs and businesses, plays an increasing role. During the pandemic, almost half of the planned activities have been cancelled. According to scientists, this could lead to problems in later project phases.

Restrictions imposed to combat the coronavirus pandemic are complicating EU-funded research projects on the energy transition.
Restrictions imposed to combat the coronavirus pandemic are complicating EU-funded research projects on the energy transition. Diana Süsser

How big a problem are coronavirus containment measures for transdisciplinary collaboration between researchers and stakeholders? How do researchers deal with the situation and how do they evaluate alternative research activities? To answer these questions, researchers from the project Laboratory for the Sustainable Energy Transition (SENTINEL) conducted an online survey among European energy research projects with stakeholder participation in summer 2020.

They found that the pandemic had one negative effect on stakeholder work in particular: Only one out of six transdisciplinary activities was implemented as planned, while almost half were cancelled or postponed. Most of the events that did take place were moved online. Researchers had good experiences with webinars, online surveys and interviews, in contrast to other virtual formats, such as workshops and conferences, which rely more heavily on interaction.

"Most respondents plan to continue using online formats in the future to complement, but not replace, physical meetings in research. The long-term implications remain to be seen but, given the cancellations and postponements of many transdisciplinary activities, many projects may face problems in the later stages of their implementation. The needs and perspectives of stakeholders may be less easily captured through online formats, which affects the quality of the outputs produced”, says project scientist Diana Süsser. Co-author Professor Johan Lilliestam adds: "In addition, many projects could probably “buffer” the immediate effects, but as the pandemic now enters its second year, 'postponing' becomes less and less of a realistic alternative for research projects, most of which are scheduled to run for three years. We expect problems to increase if contact restrictions are continued." These findings are highly relevant for funding institutions and other researchers especially.

The publication "COVID-19 vs. stakeholder engagement: The impact of coronavirus containment measures on stakeholder involvement in European energy research projects" can be found as an open peer-reviewed preprint version here: https://open-research-europe.ec.europa.eu/articles/1-57/v1