🚧 Website Maintenance in Progress: Thank you for visiting! We are currently in the process of enhancing our website to serve you better. Please check back soon for our new and improved website.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been stressful and traumatizing for people across the globe. As trauma researchers, our instinct is to spring into action—rapidly conducting studies trying to understand the impact of these traumatic stressors and developing, proposing and testing ways to mitigate their harm. This is, of course, exactly what we should be doing. And yet with this, there come many problems that need to be considered. This article briefly raises some of these issues and asks what can be done to address these concerns.

The first issue is that there was a huge degree of duplication in the research that was conducted (Glasziou, et al. 2020). Many very similar studies were set up examining the same questions across and within countries and settings. In some cases, these largely similar studies were conducted not only in the same region or local area, but even by researchers in the same institutions. While these studies have been similar, they are obviously not identical; a great variety of assessment tools were developed or used. Ideally, we would wish to be able to compare across studies, but this is often limited by the differences between the measures used. All of this highlights the need for greater collaboration and cooperation.

This duplication then impacts the second issue: research fatigue among participants (Clark 2008). There have been many examples of particular populations being overlooked by researchers, and in those cases the opportunity to participate in a study and share experiences is welcomed. However, during COVID-19, certain groups found that they were being asked to participate in multiple studies (Patel et al., 2020). Furthermore, due to the speed with which these studies were established, many of these studies did not offer compensation to the participants. We need more collaboration, coordination and transparency between different groups of researchers to reduce duplication, which in turn reduces research fatigue among participants and allows pooling of precious and limited resources.

A third issue is the well-being of trauma researchers themselves. We need to be mindful of the potential harms involved with studying the same stressors we ourselves are exposed to. This shared traumatic context may lead to vicarious trauma or burnout (Nuttman-Schwartz, 2016). We need to take the same advice that we are so quick to impart to others: take time out from our professional activities, engage in self-care activities, spend quality time with loved ones, maintain a regular and healthy routine. COVID-19 is a disaster, but it is ongoing and will not disappear overnight. COVID-related trauma research will remain crucial for a long time, and we need continued energy to engage in it.

Given these concerns, what should we do?

We need even greater collaboration and open and supportive communication between researchers. The ISTSS Research Methodology Special Interest Group established an open repository of measures for assessing COVID-19 trauma and stress. Sharing measures helps both with the resources needed to establish studies and, crucially, with subsequent data pooling and comparisons across different settings. The repository is still open for submissions (ISTSS COVID measures repository). Along the same lines, the Global Collaboration on Traumatic Stress established a COVID-19 theme in order to actively facilitate international cooperation (global collaboration COVID-19 projects). Many international studies are listed here, and researchers are invited to share their data or get involved in ongoing research.

These are important examples of how we can work together to conduct trauma research in the face of disasters and global crises. Yet these were established reactively. We need to focus on preparedness. This was not the first global crisis, and unfortunately it will not be the last. We need to learn from our experiences during 2020 to prepare for future disasters and plan our research response. ISTSS provides a network for communication, collaboration, coordination and knowledge sharing, and we need to use it to prepare crucial research that will continue to focus on understanding the causes of distress, identifying those at high risk, and delivering the right kind of support at the right time.

About the Author

Dr. Talya Greene is head of department and senior lecturer in the Department of Community Mental Health at the University of Haifa, Israel, and is an honorary associate professor in the Division of Psychiatry at the University College London, U.K. Dr. Greene researches: 1) the mental health consequences of mass traumatic events and 2) psychiatric symptoms in daily life context using experience sampling and dynamic network analysis. She is a co-founder of the COVID trauma working group based in the U.K. and leads three projects in the Global Collaboration on Traumatic Stress.


Clark, T. (2008), “`We‘re over-researched here!': exploring accounts of research fatigue within qualitative research engagements”, Sociology,  42( 5), 953-970.

Glasziou, P. P., Sanders, S., & Hoffmann, T. (2020). Waste in covid-19 research. BMJ, 369:m1847. doi: 10.1136/bmj.m1847.

Nuttman-Shwartz, O. (2016). Research in a shared traumatic reality: Researchers in a disaster context. Journal of Loss and Trauma, 21(3), 179-191.

Patel, S. S., Webster, R. K., Greenberg, N., Weston, D., & Brooks, S. K. (2020). Research fatigue in COVID-19 pandemic and post-disaster research: causes, consequences and recommendations. Disaster Prevention and Management: An International Journal. https://doi: 10.1108/DPM-05-2020-0164