Coronavirus: how is it affecting academia/higher education?

As the world is being plunged into a global pandemic/economic crisis, I hope that everyone is holding up and is taking good cere of him/herself. As in all walks of life, the coronavirus is wreaking havoc on academia as all university classes and lectures throughout the world have been cancelled and teaching has been put on hold indefinitely. Research is still ongoing at least for the humanities since being confined at home is actually a very good pretext for doing research (!), but as face-to-face mass gatherings are now banned, most if not all conferences have been cancelled, which is extremely frustrating for us regular conference participants. I am hence wondering whether we can all weigh in on the many effects that this pandemic crisis is currently having on academia and what long term damages we can envisage for our field. Please advise, and most importantly please stay safe.

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We at A2P have initiated a co-working sprint - open for anyone to contribute (see below). I am also currently designing virtual workshop agendas - to compensate the fallout on soft skills, scicom and open science trainings

Will share here once completed.


A2P COVID-19 Quarantine – Open Science sprint

https://board.net/p/A2P_COVID19-Quarantine_OpenScience-sprint

Twitter announcement: https://twitter.com/johave/status/1239891754003968006

Facilitated by Access 2 Perspectives team members: https://access2perspectives.com/about/our-team/

Topics : https://access2perspectives.com/topics/

Website : access2perspectives.com/

Contact : info@access2perspectives.com (Jo Havemann) or @johave (on Twitter)

Licensing : CC-BY 4.0 Access 2 Perspectives // see https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

For credentials, add your name, ORCID, Twitter handle, LinkedIn and/or other online profile on the topics board, where you contribute.

Procedure

  1. Under each topic of the day or in the respective board per topic (e.g. day 1: Open Science) add suptopics, urls to resources, comments and aspects you would like to see covered in the sprint, this can include your own or other third party resources you deem relevant.
  • Add your name, ORCID iD, Twitter handle, LinkedIn url, …

  • let’s co-write

  1. The plan is to decentrally and openly work on one topic per day starting [today] on March 17, 2020., but you can also start working on other topics of your personal preference.

  2. The curated content will be collected and shared on the A2P blog under CC-BY license and with due reference to contributors. Please indicate your name/ORCID/Twitterhandle if you would like to be acknowledged. Each blog post will have a disclaimer that content was created on an etherpad (with a link to each) and triggered with CC-BY-licensed content als already available on the A2P website and A2P GitHub account.

  3. Each day’s topic will stay open for continued content collection and the corresponding blog post will be updated occasionally.

  4. Feel free to suggest more relevant topics by adding them to the agenda

  5. Some topics and the collaborative effort might turn into the drafting of scholarly manuscripts, let’s discuss this further and see if we can run the process along MOOP guidelines (>> https://osf.io/preprints/metaarxiv/et8ak ) when it occurs.

  6. stay healthy and wash your hands - take breaks and enjoy the process :slight_smile:

!) Future topics might shift dates.

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I saw that the Effective Altruism Global conference which was scheduled for this weekend in SF has moved to a virtual format.

https://frame.grip.events/EAGlobalSanFrancisco2020

This is composed of video keynotes, forum ‘ask me anything’ sessions, and also virtual video meeting rooms. I hadn’t planned to attend this conference in person and probably wont connect live to the virtual version, but it sounds like a good attempt at capturing both the keynote highlights and in-person interactions of a conference.

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The latest episode of the Making Sense podcast with Sam Harris had an interesting long talk with Matt Mullenweg (founder of Wordpress and the company behind it) on how to successfully work from home (or any other environment of own choice). Matt’s company has about 1200 employees who all work distributed (i.e. remotely) from over 75 countries. The conversation was held from the perspective of the ongoing corona crisis which suddenly forces a lot of people to work from home.

If you’re not a subscriber of the podcast, you’ll only be able to hear about 30 min of the conversation. Matt had some really good concrete advice on what to think about when working remotely. I’ve been working remotely for several years now but there were still several things in this conversation that I found very interesting and useful to hear or be reminded of. For example:

  • Written communication can easily be misunderstood and countermeasures need to be frequently employed, such as (1) always assume good intent (i.e. always aim to understand what someone has written in the best possible way; don’t assume bad intent), and (2) if conflict or irritation seems to have arisen, immediately move the communication to phone in order to solve the situation.

  • Learn and make use of well-functioning tech and features for your virtual meetings. Use built in features (in e.g. Zoom), learn how to share your desktop, etc. (I’m personally way behind here. Was very impressed when @Gavin “raised his hand” during our last Zoom meeting with 4 people: such a simple but very useful feature!)

  • Prioritise getting a high-quality headset with good microphone.

  • Buy a lamp to put next to your computer so that people can actually see you when you talk to each other over video.

And a bunch of other concrete and less concrete useful tips and thoughts, for example on amazing opportunities you have with regard to family life and healthy habits when working from home that you may not have at an office. I’m not sure how much of the concrete tips that occur during the first 30 min, but do listen to the rest of the episode (1 hour more) if you find it interesting (subscribing is quick and this podcast is really, really interesting and high-quality overall).

We propose to address a lack of CODIV-19 information in local languages with short, consistent messages provided in as many regional/local languages as possible. For that, we need help of researchers and other communicators.

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@jo.havemann - I spoke to somebody knowledgeable about pandemic response recently and he said there was a lot of existing documents in English that would be very useful if translated to other languages and disseminated appropriately (in particular: https://covid-local.org/). Translating these public health documents are going to be a bit more in-depth than providing individual response focused information, but if you know people capable of working on this then I can put you in touch.

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One thing the coronavirus response has lead to is a lot of rapid funding calls. This table at this link has a good summary of what’s available.

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together with modern monetary theory (mmt) experts, i am drafting a global proposal for pandemic economics from an mmt perspective.

a lof of the proposal’s intended consequence would have to do with academia and higher education. i hope i can update you for any progress. :slight_smile:

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A very simple way to contribute to the coronavirus response is to instal folding@home so that your computer can simulate protein folding in its spare time.

https://foldingathome.org/2020/03/15/coronavirus-what-were-doing-and-how-you-can-help-in-simple-terms/

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@Gavin thanks for posting the funding link. About a year ago I wrote a very short proposal at Caltech to use cell phones for large scale scientific computing, which I sent to the provost. They said I needed a ‘clear scientific use case’ for further consideration. I said, ‘scientific use’ is the use case :slight_smile: The crazy thing is that modern iphones have a 5 teraflop neural chip in them–these things could be doing serious work especially with regards to ML, not just desktops.

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One positive trend that I see also affecting many businesses is the tolerance of remote work and home office. I hope that this will also start a trend in academia. What do you think?

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And another positive thing is that this has encouraged collaboration of researchers all over the world, from all disciplines (or many at least), and has demonstrated how important free and rapid access to research and data are.

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@andras.hartmann I agree that academia has a lot of scope for remote working that has not been realised (although this is true for many industries). It going to be very field and position dependent in Academia, but I think that academics should generally be in favour of remote work - less time in the office should make overheads lower :smiley:

Having worked remotely for several research groups over the last few years, on thing I’ve noticed is that the quality of interaction with lab members varied a lot between groups that I’ve worked with. If there is only one remote team member then you tend to get left out of whats going on, where as if there are several remote people (particularly a remote PI) then I’ve noticed that everybody takes more effort to keep everybody informed about what’s happening. This is elaborated on in more detail in a book I recently read; Remote: Office not required. It is presents a lot of excellent strategies for being and managing remote workers, and although written in the context of a software company, has ideas that I think are broadly applicable in many fields.

I also get monthly newsletters PostDocTraining, and the last month included a lot of links to articles about academic remote working. I’ve attached them in case any body is needs some reading material (note that I haven’t read most of these articles themselves, but the links the newsletter provides are usually good).

How I led my lab from 18,900 kilometres away: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-01243-1

Tool Kit for Online Instructors: https://tomprof.stanford.edu/posting/1778-1

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Sorry Gavin, been in tunnel vision working away so only seeing this now. Looks like a great resources, please introduce. Not sure if we can find the HR to cover this in all details but can certainly help bringing it to ppl’s attention. Looks particularly relevant to low-resource/infrastructure parts of the world. you can use my official email info@access2perspectives.com

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A case for remote work from an economist:

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