1. Pickler, Rita H.

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It has been said that if you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door. What was actually said by American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson, to whom the statement is attributed, is something closer to this: "If you do something better than others, people will seek you out" (Lienhard, 2003). The essence of both the common expression and the more exact one is that innovation is good and should be encouraged. Yet, there are nuances to innovation. Although innovation generally involves change, all change is not innovative. Moreover, innovation does not always lead to improvement.


Science is generally thought to be an innovative activity. At its best, the innovation of science results in a change in thought or practice that leads to improvement in understanding or outcomes. Scientists generally focus their work in ways that result in some improvement in thinking/doing or result, a classic view of innovation. Innovation also has to do with how we understand the ways conditions, situations, and events happen. Much of the "mechanistic" work of science is about improving understanding of diseases processes and health and illness conditions-of innovating around methods. Science promises much innovation. However, despite promises of scientific innovation, critics bemoan the slowness of scientific progress and the delays in science uptake (Morris et al., 2011). Getting innovations "into practice" remains a challenge for scientists and users of science alike.


Calls for innovation in science have increasingly become more strident. However, even innovation requires an orderliness if it is to achieve its goals of integrating thoughtful insights into generalizable, reproducible, research results. Innovative research, creatively and systematically undertaken, can provide a robust approach to addressing the most vexing health problems.


Over the last year, our most vexing health problem has been the COVID-19 pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2. We all hope that 2021 will bring a slowdown to cases of the virus along with the hardships, distress, and deaths that have occurred. We have collectively lost much in 2020, personally and professionally, more than perhaps we fully understand at this time. Yet, we have also learned much because of the pandemic. Since the onset of the pandemic over a year ago, we have heard stories of ways in which individuals, groups, families, institutions, and even governments innovatively addressed the havoc wreaked by COVID-19. Without a framework to control, treat, or prevent the virus, or to manage its effects on the ways in which we live, innovation was a necessity.


Throughout the pandemic, healthcare clinicians have provided vital services for those affected by the virus, directly and indirectly. The efforts of these healthcare heroes should be applauded and supported. At the same time, scientists, nurse scientists among them, have studied both direct and indirect effects of the virus, physical, social, psychological, and cultural, on individuals, families, and communities. Some of this work has occurred as part of ongoing research that was not initially proposed or designed to study COVID-19 effects. In fact, the conduct of much research over the last year has provided a natural, if unwanted, experiment for scientists. Many scientists and clinicians think that this unwanted experiment has prompted innovation that has resulted in new interventions or strategies to improve patient outcomes and different, more expanded ways of thinking. In some cases, the innovative work of clinicians and scientists on or near the front line of the pandemic has been life changing. At the very least, it is likely the case that, as scientists, we have learned lessons during the conduct of our research that may change the way we think about science, doing science, and interpreting science.


At Nursing Research, we want to help disseminate these innovations. We are thus pleased to announce plans for the publication of a special issue to be published in March 2022 (and earlier online as a publication ahead of print) on innovations and lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic. We invite papers reporting the results of well-designed research about the pandemic, with particular interest in research results that translate into lessons learned that may affect the future delivery of healthcare (i.e., telehealth) as well as increase our understanding about the short-term and potential long-term effects of the virus on those who were infected or affected. We are particularly interested in the further elucidation of health inequities and health disparities revealed by the pandemic; this is an important aspect of pandemic effects that needs much deeper exploration. We are also interested in experiences and characteristics of those who contracted the virus and "recovered" with and without long-term sequelae, as well as those who have experienced long-standing continuation of the disease (i.e., "long haulers"). We also encourage papers that address issues of particularly vulnerable populations-older adults, children, the homeless, those who are institutionalized or incarcerated, and other groups of people who have been specifically affected by the pandemic. We welcome equally papers providing evidence of both adverse and more positive effects of the pandemic. Research reports can include basic and clinical studies, quantitative and qualitative approaches, and descriptive or interventional studies. We also invite manuscripts detailing innovative methods and research approaches taken to advance nursing science during 2020 despite the difficulties of conducting research during the pandemic. Both full-length manuscripts and briefs are appreciated. Queries to the editor are welcome at Manuscript submission is electronic via by July 15, 2021. The cover letter should note that the paper is being submitted in response to the call for COVID 19: Lessons Learned. Authors should consult the Guide for Authors at


We hope that "the time of COVID," if not over, is at the very least, diminishing. As we move forward and away from the worst of the pandemic, we hope that we will remember what we have learned. We hope that innovative ideas from our research experiences will be useful to our future work and the work of others as well as to those whose lives have been changed because of the virus and the resultant pandemic. We believe that lessons learned from COVID-19-focused research or COVID-19-driven changes to research processes have the potential to expand nursing science (Roubinov et al., 2020), and we hope that you will want others to learn from your experiences.


Rita H. Pickler




Lienhard J. H. (2003). Inventing modern: Growing up with x-rays, skyscrapers, and tailfins. Oxford University Press. [Context Link]


Morris Z. S., Wooding S., Grant J. (2011). The answer is 17 years, what is the question: Understanding time lags in translational research. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 104, 510-520. [Context Link]


Roubinov D., Bush N. R., Boyce W. T. (2020). How a pandemic could advance the science of early adversity. JAMA Pediatrics. 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2020.2354. Advance online publication.[Context Link]