Home-office for Scientists – a challenge, an opportunity or both?

2020-04-08T16:12:55+00:00April 8th 2020|

Martina Rauner und Stefanie Conrad, TU Dresden, Katharina Jähn, UKE Hamburg

The pandemic outbreak of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the related disease COVID-19 have placed a major toll on all our lives. We have transformed into socially distant persons in an act of solidarity to prevent the overload of our health care system. As medical or basic researchers, we thrive to find the truth behind numbers and to understand what they could mean for our society. In the current situation, we tend to constantly assess the numbers of infected and recovered people; we read about the pathological mechanisms of the virus involving ACE2 receptors on the cell surface of alveolar lining cells; and even wonder about what preventive measures in terms of life-style changes and nutrient supplements could achieve. Some researchers are now heavily involved in the development of successful vaccinations, or in the evaluation of clinical data related to the disease and the potential medications. Yet, many, including us, members of the µbone consortia, share the common responsibility of “flattening-the-curve” and try to stay home as much as possible.

The idea of a home-office day is at first very intriguing. While it is the scientific thrive that brings one to the bench-side to perform experiments, the work on the computer is equally important. On the computer, we can evaluate our data, design novel project ideas, write grants to support our work and publish our results to share it with our peers. All these tasks can technically be performed in a home setting. However, the home office bears the challenge how to accomplish your work load when the dirty dishes in the kitchen pile up, the laundry needs to be done, kids needs to be home-schooled or entertained, and rich program of online streaming programs appears too enticing. Thus, finding creative solutions to manage your very personal situation is the key. Maybe you need to start the day by calling a colleague and set up your plan for the day, maybe your break will involve a walk in the park or an online sports class to keep mobile, or maybe you discover the advantages of Skype meetings with everyone being digitally present even if locally separated. Now is the perfect time to optimize your work on the computer and challenge your lab and university structures to make a push towards digitalization and collaboration without wasting time on traveling.

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