COVID-19

BRISK2 was going really well, we were hitting our transnational access targets; the joint research was going well, we have had several papers published and then boom COVID-19 and the world stopped. The impact on research in general has been huge. The majority of research takes place in Universities and research facilities, nearly all of which, were required to close throughout the whole of Europe. In universities, the direction given was to put all of your energies and focus into teaching. This has been incredibly difficult especially as research generally comes with a limited amount of time, finances and resources. Though research was paused, you still have to complete your responsibilities and do the best to meet deadlines. The funding bodies have been very understanding but they can only extend the time, they are unable to increase the funding. For at least six- months, research on a whole was on pause, which in turn, delays improvements and finding breakthroughs.

On the other side of the coin, the global lock-down was of benefit to the planet. Emissions reduced significantly and people were able to see the world start to heal itself from the damage emissions are causing. Sadly, when the restrictions are lifted, people will want to catch up. It is a reasonable assumption that emissions will spike up when freedom to travel has returned, to higher than before the pandemic. A lecture I attended confirmed this is the case in China, emissions are actually higher there than before the pandemic struck, as they try to recuperate lost time. I think this will also happen in the rest of the world.

Everything I offer is my opinion as a researcher. I cannot say that this is of equal value to the public but for me this emphasises the need for alternative fuels and solutions. The world is trying to heal itself but we need to give it the chance.

I understand from the news that one of the reasons we are in this mess is because of global warming. It has made this pandemic and will continue to make future pandemics worse and worse. By contributing to global warming, all of us are responsible for contributing to this global pandemic. It is not reasonable for us all to point the finger at China, though this may be where this particular pandemic began. Every single one of us in the world, especially the industrial world that produces most of the emissions, are responsible because of our habits.

Another benefit is the redirection and investment of funds due to the economic collapse. The European Union needs to help countries recover economically. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic there was an interest in green energies and though it was high on the priority list – it was vastly underfunded. Now the European Union are investing in economy recovery by putting more of an emphasis on green energy. It is of greater importance and by starting from the beginning, putting in the correct info structure to enable green energy research to have a meaningful impact on society and the way we use fuel in the future.

 At the beginning, I was very scared, there was so much left unknown and policy makers were struggling to make sense of the virus and put correct procedures in place. Now, I know that eventually, for those who are passing this pandemic and staying alive, many good things can come out of it, putting us in a better position compared to when this pandemic began. I really hope that I am right and we do not end up fighting for resources and so on as that is also a possible outcome; but I am optimistic that it will be beneficial. A jump-start for society to develop and improve themselves not only in the energy sector, but also in many other ways.

For BRISK2 specifically, COVID-19 has had a huge impact on transnational access. We had to pause all applications as it simply was not safe to travel and we do not want to jeopardise participant’s safety. In addition, the closure of Universities and Research facilities meant even if participants could travel, they could not access the facilities needed. As one of the greatest factors of BRISK2 is to encourage network development we felt it appropriate to close applications rather than moving to an online alternative. When things eased up a little we re-opened applications and it was heart-warming to see that applications had not reduced, people are still willing to travel. Though, it is still very difficult as different areas are changing their rules regarding lockdown and travel at different times.