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Research fatigue in COVID-19 pandemic and post-disaster research: causes, consequences and recommendations

Sonny S. Patel (Harvard University T H Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA)
Rebecca K. Webster (Department of Psychology, The University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK)
Neil Greenberg (Department of Psychological Medicine, King's College London, London, UK)
Dale Weston (Department of Emergency Response, Public Health England, Salisbury, UK)
Samantha K. Brooks (Department of Psychological Medicine, King's College London, London, UK)

Disaster Prevention and Management

ISSN: 0965-3562

Article publication date: 23 July 2020

Issue publication date: 13 November 2020




Research fatigue occurs when an individual or population of interest tires of engaging with research, consequently avoiding further participation. This paper considers research fatigue in the context of the current COVID-19 pandemic, to identify contributory factors and possible solutions for future post-disaster research.


The authors draw on examples from the literature and their own observations from the recruitment and data collection phases of qualitative and quantitative studies, to provide an overview of possible research fatigue in the current COVID-19 pandemic, with implications for future post-disaster research.


People affected by disasters sometimes receive multiple requests for study participation by separate teams who may not necessarily be coordinating their work. Not keeping participants informed of the research process or outcomes can lead to disillusionment. Being overburdened with too many research requests and failing to see any subsequent changes following participation may cause individuals to experience research fatigue.


Guidelines for researchers wishing to reduce the occurrence of research fatigue include ensuring greater transparency within research; sharing of results and using oversight or gatekeeper bodies to aid coordination. Failure to restrict the number of times that people are asked to participate in studies risks poor participation rates. This can subsequently affect the quality of information with which to inform policy-makers and protect the health of the public during the COVID-19 pandemic or other public health disasters/emergencies.



Sonny Patel (NIH Global Health Scholar and Fellow) is supported by the Fogarty International Center and National Institute of Mental Health, of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) under Award Number D43 TW010543 at Harvard University. Dr Rebecca Webster is a lecturer at the University of Sheffield. Dr Neil Greenberg (Professor), Dr Dale Weston (Research Fellow) and Dr Samantha Brooks (Senior Research Associate) are affiliated to the National Institute for Health Research Health Protection Research Unit (NIHR HPRU) in Emergency Preparedness and Response, a partnership between Public Health England, King's College London and the University of East Anglia. Dr Dale Weston is also a member of the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit in Behavioural Science and Evaluation at University of Bristol. The authors would like to thank Dr Timothy B. Erickson, Dr Simon Wessely, Dr John Simpson and Dr James Rubin. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NIH, NHS, NIHR, Public Health England or the Department of Health and Social Care. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


Patel, S.S., Webster, R.K., Greenberg, N., Weston, D. and Brooks, S.K. (2020), "Research fatigue in COVID-19 pandemic and post-disaster research: causes, consequences and recommendations", Disaster Prevention and Management, Vol. 29 No. 4, pp. 445-455.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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