In the time like this, when uncertainty, fear, existential problems, as well as closed labs, interrupted experiments, cancelled conferences, ruined plans, etc. are our reality, we need to adapt and find the ways to endure. Due to restrictive policies set by many governments and epidemiologists’ recommendations, many researchers are confined at home, and are suddenly forced to find alternative ways for working, teaching, mentoring, etc. Basically they regard the time in self-isolation as an opportunity (as long as they are healthy), not just as a frustration. One of the most famous living poets and philosophers in Serbia, confined at home due to governmental restriction for people aged over 65 years, has said in a recent interview that now is the time when he cannot excuse himself that he does not have enough time. Indeed, many scientists think similarly, and also try to be productive during this time, to finish some papers that have been waiting for their attention too long, write grant applications, etc. An interesting text published in April in Nature’s career column “My lab is closed to me because of the coronavirus. Here’s how I’m planning to stay productive” gives us an US-based Chinese researcher’s perspective on the topic and illustrates one way of coping with the situation. Many labs found the way to continue working despite the lockdown, and in these situations a lot is expected also from PhD students and young post-docs. In this weird moment when everyone tries to cope with the stress and uncertainty, it is easy to forget about supporting young researchers, for their needs and fears. Some of them may be already at the frontline of the battle against the virus, and some of them have their PhD projects and careers interrupted, some are concerned about what will be with them “when this entire thing is over”, etc. Indeed, the expectations from our young associates should be realistic and mentoring support must not end now. An interesting article about mentoring during the COVID-19 pandemic has been just out in Nature’s career column, listing some experiences and recommendations from New York City. And finally, what to do after the outbreak? It is somewhat comforting that some funding agencies already announced “no-cost extensions” for research projects, but it is essential to consider also “cost extensions” as suggested in another recent text in Nature (Supporting early-career researchers for post-pandemic prospects). In the meantime, let’s hope this crisis will end soon, and that we will continue finding new ways to work together, support our associates and use the time wisely.
You are here: / (Young) Scientists at the time of a pandemic – by Petar Milovanovic