• Hour glass icon38 minutes : 2 minutes reading | 36 minutes video

Managing researchers during Covid-19

Session details

Date: 09 September 2020

Session speakers

  • Prof Alberto Bardelli (Department of Oncology, University of Turin)
  • Matthew Davis (Organisational Developer, The Academy, University of Liverpool) on project management tools
  • Dr Ruth Nugent (HSS, University of Liverpool)
  • Prof Rob Pool (FES, University of Liverpool)

Session overview

The session, open to staff from the University of Liverpool, presented examples of how PIs managed their postdocs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Topics covered included:

  • Real-life experiences of managing researchers during the pandemic
  • Shared learnings
  • Practical advice and suggestions on how to best manage researchers

Session recordings

Shared learnings


The consensus seemed to be in favour of having a group meeting at least once a week.

Reduced activity

Some PIs took the decision to reduce their target outputs, to take into account for the challenging circumstances. This differed with contract/fellowship/funder/project.

Technology/virtual tools

Tools found useful differ with personal preference. Tools found useful were:

Working well and well-being

Taking breaks and holidays was extra important during this time and encouraging research staff to do likewise was important. Wellbeing should be included as a standing item in team meetings.

Enhancing teaching skills

One PI was trialling improving researchers teaching skills virtually by getting them to record a lecture and then critically discussing the content and style with the researchers who are unable to teach face-to-face due to the current situation.

Inviting speakers

An unexpected benefit of lockdown, with events moving online international speakers, can now be approached and secured for talks and seminars, previously something that was not readily possible.

Shared experiences


Discussions around the technological challenges of accessing the University infrastructure remotely, especially with large data sets.

Working well and well-being

PIs with caring/parental responsibilities found balancing work and home life particularly challenging. The difficulties working from home have for some PIs have been immense – the importance of individual circumstances was highlighted.

Postdoc contract challenges

Issues around the fixed-term contracts of postdocs, working from home, and the severe impact this had on their ability to work on the specific project.

PIs discussed looking for alternative funding opportunities or extensions. One PI reported their postdocs have been off with stress during this time.

Pressures and responsibilities (Heads of departments)

PDR season continues. HoDs involved with focusing on reopening buildings on campus, whilst trying to balance people management/not forget about these issues when concentration is on facility management.

Possible topics for future discussions

Recruitment and virtual inductions

  • What happens before a postdoc arrives? You get the funding, but then what is the process and what does best practice around recruitment and interview look like?
  • How do you write a job specification? A particular focus on remote induction is desired.
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