Researchers whose work is unaffected by the COVID-19 pandemic are currently in a position of privilege. For others, however, the obstacles to securing positions, grants and publications are immense.

This ‘pandemic bias’ is a mortal threat to the careers of many. Their productivity is curtailed if they catch the virus or are deemed high-risk; if they are caring for affected relatives; or if their laboratories are closed. This compounds the difficulty of finding their next position amid hiring freezes and budget cuts. And travel restrictions are an obstacle to pursuing international careers (see, for example, A. H. Behbahani et al. Nature 583, 202; 2020).

As scientists, we must act to ensure that disadvantaged researchers are heard. Science is inherently cooperative: researchers work in teams that cover all career stages, make discoveries in international collaborations and evaluate each others’ ideas. They can help by reviewing more articles and grants, taking over teaching duties for those with care commitments, reconsidering application deadlines and criteria and supporting scholars who cannot cross borders. Contribute to our discussion on Twitter: #StopPandemicBias.