Constraints on laboratory work due to the COVID-19 pandemic are disproportionately affecting the career prospects of winners of prestigious postdoctoral fellowships (see also A. H. Behbahani Nature 583, 202; 2020). These talented young scientists are being held back by funding agencies that offer no paid extensions for their research (see go.nature.com/3ihiskm).
Our survey of more than 500 sponsored postdocs at our institutions revealed that 72% have not received any funding extension. Their concern is that grant committees in the future will not take these circumstances into account, which will have an impact on their careers. Not being able to complete their projects is disrupting their publication record and preventing them from meeting deadlines for independent starter-grant applications.
We urge funding agencies to allow an extension of at least 6–12 months to compensate for the loss of applicants’ research time so that they can meet the eligibility criteria for such follow-up funding. Funding agencies widening their criteria for research excellence beyond bibliometrics would also help.