David Feil-Seifer, Kerstin Haring, Silvia Rossi, Alan Wagner, and Tom Williams
ACM Transactions on Human-Robot Interaction
The COVID-19 pandemic will have a profound and long-lasting impact on the entirety of scientific endeavor. Already, scientists are adapting research programs to adapt to changes in what is prioritized – and what is possible; educators are changing the way that the next generation of researchers are trained; and flagship conferences in many fields are being cancelled, postponed, and fundamentally transformed.These broad-reaching changes are particularly impactful to human-oriented domains such as Human-Robot Interaction (HRI).Because in-person human-subject experiments can take a year or more to conduct, the research we will see published in the field in the immediate future may appear to be “business as usual”, with accounts of laboratory studies with large numbers of in-person participants. The research currently being performed, on the other hand, is of course a different story entirely. Studies that were underway when the current crisis began will be truncated, resulting either in work that cannot be published, or in work whose true impact is difficult to accurately assess. HRI research performed in the coming years, on the other hand, will be changed in fundamentally different ways; the inability to perform – or expect future performance of – in-person human subjects research,especially research involving tactile or multiparty interaction, will change both the dominant methodological techniques employed by HRI researchers and the very research questions that the field chooses to – and is able to – address.These challenges demand that HRI researchers identify precisely how the field can maintain research quality and impact while the ability to conduct human-subject studies is severely impaired for an undetermined amount of time. While a natural inclination may be simply to wait the crisis out in the hope of a speedy return to normalcy, in this paper we argue that the community can also take this opportunity to reevaluate and refocus how research in this field is conducted and how students are mentored in ways that will yield benefits for years to come after the current crisis has ended.