Dr. Ulrike Eickhoff
Head of the Program and Infrastructure Funding Department, German Research Foundation e.V.Copyright: © birgitta-petershagen.de
A Critical Turning Point
In many ways, the Coronavirus pandemic was a critical turning point for everyone, including for the scientific community. The crisis has left behind it a great many challenges, but it has also generated benefits that were unexpected. Once the initial shock of the crisis had been dealt with, the advantages of the new virtual collaborations came into view. Managing family life and work life became easier due to the fact that less business trips had to be undertaken, and CO2 emissions were reduced. On top of that, nationwide/international collaboration became more intensive in nature and many subjects and locations became more attractive, where critical mass had been missing in the past. Paradoxically, the abrupt way that the “Working Together Apart” model that had to be implemented throughout the world showed how physical contact and real communication spaces really benefit people psychologically.
We will not be able to replace offices and laboratories in the future, but at least the former will have to compete in terms of attractiveness with other working spaces for which solutions will have to be found in a university context. Making the working environment more virtual in nature also strengthens the feeling that everything is moving faster in our modern world. Whereas before, the students’ lives were dominated by the academic quarter-hour and work in the lab was broken up by informal chats in the elevator or at the coffee machine, students’ lives are now dominated by Zoom meetings and Webex conferences. Each generation will have to find their own way of coping with the problems that increased acceleration brings with it. The university managers and scientific managers will be called upon to provide the appropriate conditions to ensure that these solutions can be found.