Nav: Home

"COVID-19 is here to stay for the foreseeable future" -- Field work in a pandemic

September 14, 2020

Independent group leaders Eleanor Scerri and Denise Kuehnert of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History (MPI-SHH) have teamed up with other colleagues from the institute and beyond to comment in Nature Ecology & Evolution on the future of field-based sciences in a COVID-19 world. The piece outlines the epidemiological characteristics of SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing the COVID-19 pandemic, details its effects on field-based sciences and identifies how working practices can be remodelled to overcome the challenges brought on by the virus.

The authors have wide-ranging expertise in archaeology, the allied geosciences and infectious disease dynamics and represent a diversity of views ranging from the Global North to the South, from large countries to small island nations. Drawing from this broad pool of experience and expertise allowed the authors to consider a wide range of barriers and possible solutions while ensuring ethical and safeguarding standards are in place. For example, the current paper outlines protocols for remote collaboration, key adjustments that need to be made by funding agencies and curriculum changes to accommodate emerging technological problems and solutions.

"This project started as a discussion with international colleagues and collaborators to find positive solutions to the research problems we face," says Dr. Eleanor Scerri, head of the Pan-African Evolution Research Group at the MPI-SHH.

"In the future we will likely see spatially and temporally patchy peaks and troughs in COVID-19 case numbers," adds Dr. Denise Kuehnert, head of the Transmission, Infection, Diversification & Evolution Group. "It seems clear we can't just pause all science fieldwork or persist with short-term mitigation strategies."

Among the recommendations outlined are the creation and use of digital archives with community interpretation - goals that correspond well with an 'Open Science' framework and make scientific research accessible to all. At the same time, the authors argue for greater recognition of the value of technicians and greater investment in technician training and recruitment, as well as greater financial support for method development. To prevent the loss of foundational methods of field interpretation, the paper articulates how virtual training methods can be combined with safe, local and physically distanced training excavations.

In making these points, the authors note that the scientific decarbonization movement has long been advocating for change in fieldwork practices. The movement - which seeks to reduce the travel-related carbon footprint of scientists, among other things - has also made the case for the increased use of technologies that promote remote collaboration.

"We see the barriers we're facing as an opportunity to remodel the way field-based sciences are taught, conducted and funded," says Scerri. "This is an opportunity to develop better collaborations for both social and climate justice while continuing to safely engage with our disciplines to the fullest extent."

Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History

Related Virus Articles:

COVID-19 - The virus and the vasculature
In severe cases of COVID-19, the infection can lead to obstruction of the blood vessels in the lung, heart and kidneys.
Lab-made virus mimics COVID-19 virus
Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have created a virus in the lab that infects cells and interacts with antibodies just like the COVID-19 virus, but lacks the ability to cause severe disease.
Virus prevalence associated with habitat
Levels of virus infection in lobsters seem to be related to habitat and other species, new studies of Caribbean marine protected areas have shown.
Herpes virus decoded
The genome of the herpes simplex virus 1 was decoded using new methods.
A new biosensor for the COVID-19 virus
A team of researchers from Empa, ETH Zurich and Zurich University Hospital has succeeded in developing a novel sensor for detecting the new coronavirus.
How at risk are you of getting a virus on an airplane?
New 'CALM' model on passenger movement developed using Frontera supercomputer.
Virus multiplication in 3D
Vaccinia viruses serve as a vaccine against human smallpox and as the basis of new cancer therapies.
How the Zika virus can spread
The spread of infectious diseases such as Zika depends on many different factors.
Fighting the herpes virus
New insights into preventing herpes infections have been published in Nature Communications.
Strategies of a honey bee virus
Heidelberg, 23 October 2019 - The Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus is a pathogen that affects honey bees and has been linked to Colony Collapse Disorder, a key factor in decimating the bee population.
More Virus News and Virus Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Debbie Millman: Designing Our Lives
From prehistoric cave art to today's social media feeds, to design is to be human. This hour, designer Debbie Millman guides us through a world made and remade–and helps us design our own paths.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#574 State of the Heart
This week we focus on heart disease, heart failure, what blood pressure is and why it's bad when it's high. Host Rachelle Saunders talks with physician, clinical researcher, and writer Haider Warraich about his book "State of the Heart: Exploring the History, Science, and Future of Cardiac Disease" and the ails of our hearts.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Insomnia Line
Coronasomnia is a not-so-surprising side-effect of the global pandemic. More and more of us are having trouble falling asleep. We wanted to find a way to get inside that nighttime world, to see why people are awake and what they are thinking about. So what'd Radiolab decide to do?  Open up the phone lines and talk to you. We created an insomnia hotline and on this week's experimental episode, we stayed up all night, taking hundreds of calls, spilling secrets, and at long last, watching the sunrise peek through.   This episode was produced by Lulu Miller with Rachael Cusick, Tracie Hunte, Tobin Low, Sarah Qari, Molly Webster, Pat Walters, Shima Oliaee, and Jonny Moens. Want more Radiolab in your life? Sign up for our newsletter! We share our latest favorites: articles, tv shows, funny Youtube videos, chocolate chip cookie recipes, and more. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at