This article appeared in Discover’s annual state of science issue as “The Virus That Changed Science.” Support our science journalism by becoming a subscriber.
In March, labs around the world went dark. Experiments stopped, specimens were frozen and research timelines shifted into the unknown. By the time labs began reopening, a new mode of science had emerged. It only took a microscopic virus to bring macro-level changes — some good, some bad and many with no signs of turning back.
The technology of the 21st century has allowed science to move forward virtually — and rapidly. The latest COVID-19 findings are shared online at warp speed, and media reports are delivered straight to smartphones in the palm of our hands. While this barrage of research fosters speedy discoveries, some scientists are concerned about the consequences of too much haste. In May, Jonathan Kimmelman, a bioethicist at McGill