Europe’s research labs scrambled to make the best use of their resources and offered remote access for researchers during the pandemic. Some of these changes are set to become a permanent feature.
Jan Hrušák, chair the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI)
Big research labs are set to make a permanent feature of ‘needs must’ operational changes forced on them by the COVID-19 pandemic, as they take stock of lessons learned over the past year.
Jan Hrušák, chair the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) expects big labs will fine tune remote access schemes and allow more researchers to send in samples for those projects that do not require their physical presence in the lab.
In the face of the pandemic, research labs fast-tracked access for urgent health projects and had to put many other experiments on hold. Labs around Europe closed their doors as travel restrictions and lockdowns hit, and had to invent new ways of carrying out essential work safely.
Now, in recognition that these new ways of working give the research infrastructures themselves and geographically spread scientists that rely on their resources, more flexibility, these new methods could be extended beyond the pandemic.
“Research infrastructures have been severely hit by the crisis,” said Hrušák. “They had difficulties working in the traditional way and they have been facing troubles in providing access to users.”
In dire circumstances, Hrušák said Europe’s research labs scrambled to make the best use of their resources and offered remote access for researchers, which required changes in the way research infrastructures work. “We have seen huge, massive mobilisation of [the] capacities of research infrastructures,” he said.
If these changes are to become permanent, labs would have to revamp their hiring plans, because more staff will be required to handle samples mailed in by remote researchers. “There might be new ways how research infrastructures will connect to the users and how they operate,” said Hrušák.
Lockdowns have also delayed the construction of new infrastructures but Hrušák hopes “this will not propagate further.”
Research labs should start planning plan for challenges in the near future… “Read more”