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A new way of researching

Research in a pandemicWe have had to modify how we work, as the Department is officially closed and we are all working from home. This obviously means that all experimental work is on hold, and we are focussing primarily on analysing data already acquired and writing up manuscripts. In some ways, this gives us unaccustomed breathing space to get manuscripts completed and submitted, but where additional experimental work is required it is understandably frustrating that this is not possible. We are also using the time to draft our next grant applications. Again, it is a bit of a luxury that we don’t normally have when grant writing to have time to really focus on it without the distraction of normal lab work. Although it is unclear exactly what the funding situation will be once this crisis is over – currently, the majority of grant calls have been closed until further notice and many funding bodies will have significantly reduced funds available as a result of the pandemic.

The above said, I am very conscious that my group members working at home will be facing a number of new challenges, ranging from the mental health implications of isolation to balancing work with childcare responsibilities. To try to combat the former, we have set up a group meeting on a weekly basis via Zoom, not only to discuss science related issues, but importantly to catch up with each other socially (this often includes the odd beer!). We’re also in touch regularly via email and are supporting each other as much as possible.

In terms of balancing work and childcare, this is a particularly challenging area for parents of young children and, though my own children are now teenagers and require less moment-to-moment attention, I am extremely supportive of my staff in this situation. In particular, I am mindful that the amount of work that is possible will inevitably be lower than normal and have assured my group that this is not an issue. Altogether, we are doing our best to keep things going under these new and challenging times, and I think we will come out of it with a new appreciation for life in the lab!

Professor Nicola R Sibson, Supernumerary Fellow in Medicine and Professor of Imaging Neuroscience

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