Corona Crisis: Resources & discussion

Do you want to share a comment or anecdote? Contact us via this google form.

Data and Research on Impact

Challenges and Anecdotes

Q & A

Questions we discussed and a sketch of the consensus.

Shouldn't men receive support?

Of course! We suggest that men who are involved in caregiving for their children and people who have been involved in eldercare for their parents be eligible for support upon application. We suggest application-free support for women with minor children because of the statistical likelihood that they be involved in caregiving.

Is it fair to favor women?

Women have been underrepresented in Mathematics for hundreds of years and gender bias persists today. Of course we believe in fairness, but gender-blind measures of support do not level the playing field. Giving particular consideration to women seems justified.

I'm caring for my elderly mother; doesn't that count?

Of course! We suggest that people who have been involved in eldercare for their parents be eligible for support upon application.

Is ''stopping the clock'' on one's academic age a good idea?

This is a controversial topic and whether to ”stop the clock” is a personal choice. Some women want to stop the clock so that one’s academic age reflect the amount of time one has had to focus on research. Other women find it unfair that they should end up behind peers (in career status or salary). We believe that women should have the option to take time off of their academic age for the Corona Crisis and should make a decision based on their individual circumstances, ideally in consultation with their advisor(s). We hope that hiring and tenure committees will consider this issue in a fair and sensitive way (see also “How should hiring committees be sensitive towards the corona impact,” below), but each individual should make the best strategic choice for her/himself.

Should the corona period be indicated on the CV?

This is open to debate. Ultimately it is a personal judgment call whether this is more likely to help or hurt your portfolio, and it might depend on where the CV is used (grant application, job application, promotion). See also “stopping the clock,” above.

Should we just trust the system?

Why does advocacy get turned into a trust question? Why would it be better not to discuss the fallout of the global pandemic? It is true that finding time for your research is critical to advancing your academic career. It is also true that these are unprecedented times and giving some thought to optimizing our current circumstances can be productive. Unfortunately, the system has not managed to resolve many inequalities so far and there is still a lot of imbalance when it comes to gender, social background, and race, just to name a few.

I don't have kids, but I've been struggling too. What can I do?

So many things that we count on have changed in the past months! The effects are rippling across academia in ways that we will only be able to understand in hindsight. If you need more contact with your advisor, try to respectfully request time to meet. Look critically at your CV and consider how you can develop your portfolio despite current restrictions. If discussing with peers is important to you, try to find digital or socially distant ways to connect. Consider organizing an online discussion session before or after online seminars (“digital coffee“). If current restrictions allow, see whether you can organize in-person discussion sessions with masks and distance. If you are an EWM member, consider joining the mentoring network; perhaps you will find useful suggestions in that context. Please do not hesitate to ask for support or advice—we are all in this together and some of us have given a lot of thought to how we can help support each other. If you’ve been struggling with mental health issues, call a counselor or doctor today.

How should hiring committees be sensitive towards the corona impact?

Many of us know both sides of the hiring process. It is easy to get hung up on statistics (number of publications, citations, impact factors, grant money) and to forget that we are talking about people. Next time we are part of a hiring process, let us be mindful about the whole person. What was their life like during the pandemic? What does the CV tell us? Is there an obvious gap in research activities that stems from a heavy teaching load or care responsibilities? Were there fewer proposals, talks, new projects? Is it reasonable to expect an increase in productivity as the crisis resolves?
During this time, it is more important than ever to give candidates the benefit of the doubt, to have a look at their actual work (not just citation numbers) and to re-think the common notion of what it means to choose the “best person for the job.” This phrase is not as objective as it seems. Sometimes the best person means a strong researcher who also complements existing strengths, adds a new perspective, helps correct a blind spot.

What does/can networking mean during these times? How can we nurture our professional development?

If you have recently submitted an arXiv preprint or had an article appear, consider sending it out to those who may be interested. Attend some online lectures and join the discussion before or after the talk. If there is no such discussion planned, consider asking the organizers if they would be open to having one. See which kind of online events are being planned by institutes and organizations with similar interests as yours. Make sure your webpage is up to date! This can be a good time to add a research description and update your job materials, or to subscribe to mailing lists for newsletters, job advertisements, or information about online workshops and conferences. Ask your advisor(s) and mentors for input! If you are on the job market, send a brief email to senior mathematicians whom you know to advertise this fact. Are your peers interested in organizing an online or physically distant discussion group? Practicing online interviews/job-talks with each other? Do you have other ideas about how to connect? Think about what you need as well as about what you can contribute. Take a seat at the table—even if it’s an online table for now.

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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of EWM.