Covid-19 and its consequences for junior academics

The Covid-19 pandemic is hitting hard in many layers of society with people losing their jobs and their income. For junior academics, the pandemic is hitting particularly hard despite these individuals having high-levels of education and unique expertise. Already under normal circumstances, many postdocs and young researchers fight over the few available positions there are: mostly project positions and teaching contracts that rarely exceeds 12-month.

As many of you know, I decided to return to academia – after a year working on the founding of a technology start-up – with possibly the most inopportune timing as the pandemic broke out weeks later. The result was that despite having been the selected candidate for several positions, I was turned down last minute due to problems and new international regulations as a result of the pandemic.

2020 has been a frustrating year to try to return to academia and I am certain that I am but one of the hundreds of young researchers of amazing competences that find themselves in similar situations. The problem seems to stretch the whole academic sector as looking at the research outputs of departments and more established researchers the consequences of the pandemic can be identified as well: fewer publications, fewer international collaborations and the majority of conferences are cancelled, postponed or held online.

While waiting for the dust to settle and the academic profession to once again get back to business as usual, I have been working on my illustrated novel “Lost Little Robots” that explore intrinsically human traits through the experiences of futuristic software. More professionally, I have been looking into alternative methods by which one can continue to contribute to the world’s research agenda. This means that for the past year I have been working on several different scholarships and grant applications for individual fellowships. The latest, and my current project, is a Marie Sklodovska-Curie Fellowship I am writing in response to an invitation to join the Artificial Intelligence Institute at IIIA-CSIC in Barcelona and the Department of Psychology at City, University of London. Naturally, the competition for a MSCF is high with chances around the 15 percentile and surely this year many young researchers in similar positions as mine will be applying. The best of luck to you all!

However, despite the competition and the sometimes rather grim experiences during this pandemic, there is only one way forward. So let’s all stay healthy and optimistic that the medical researchers and professionals soon will have the pandemic under control and that the opportunities in both industry and academia will get back to normal! We can beat this!

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