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Astroparticle Physics in times of Corona

For several weeks now our everyday life has been quite disrupted by the novel corona virus. We all have to master difficult situations in this unusual time, facing conditions we never experienced before. Although everybody has to deal with a different situation some things are common for almost all of us and our institutions.

“These last weeks will leave a deep sign in my life forever, as possibly the life of many, who will remember the time of COVID. In first place, this time is making me understand better what it means to still have your house to refugee and think how important is our role to understand and help who do not even have it.” Teresa Montaruli

Most institutions have set up a COVID-19 task force to inform and update their employees and to find the right balance between keeping the business running and at the same time protecting the health of the employees in the best possible way.
Despite some people working in the lab most of us have to work from home. There, many have to combine taking care of their kids and doing their daily office work, which is more and more challenging the longer this situation holds.
To keep everybody motivated and to keep contact with colleagues many institutes organize not only scientific virtual meetings but also social events like common coffee breaks, lunches or even concerts.
Traditionally, personal contacts at collaboration meetings, exchanges with scientists – whether within our own working group or during visits to other institutes –  and national and international exchanges at conferences make up a large part of our scientific life. But many conferences were cancelled or postponed, like the APPEC Town Meeting which was planned for this autumn is now postponed to 2021. 

“I am now working from home for almost 3 months. It is amazing to see how much is still possible using video meetings, chats and the good old phone and email. On the other hand I miss the informal talks with colleagues, and unexpected chats while visiting labs and meetings. This informal opportunities are needed for make progress in delicate and complex topics. But we will learn week by week how to optimize in working from home.” Job de Kleuver

Many meetings and events had to move to a virtual place, which has both, advantages and disadvantages. One advantage of moving many activities to the virtual world is that more people can join. Here are some examples for online conferences, colloquia and seminars:

But having all kind of meetings, like Collaboration meetings, group meeting etc. online is sometimes also very exhausting and it is hard to stay concentrated after hours of a zoom meeting.

“On the positive side of this CoVID crisis, family is now more easily reconciled with my work since at least being a single mom of two kids I do not need to travel. This is despite I need to scholarize them at home while I work.
The times I was forced to travel, were problematic to me from the organisation point of view and from the responsibility one. I would be very happy if we understand how effective are video meetings even for audiences of 100 people, if well guided.
Another aspect is mobility that our research work requires. It detaches you from families. We should be more tolerant in not considering it as a must in the career of physicists.” Teresa Montaruli

Many of us do not only have to deal with online conferences but with online teaching duties. Some might be well prepared but for some this might be a new field and a lot of additional preparatory work was necessary to provide lectures at an equal level as usual.

“Overalls, this period of telematic contacts found me well prepared. I have migrated my courses completely online and now I am registering them and I will continue to do this also in the future when we will be back in classrooms. I think most physicists must have been able to do this step egregiously well.” Teresa Montaruli

But in addition to this current challenges some scientist are worried about their future. Especially those with temporary contracts or those just finishing their studies or PhDs, are now in a difficult situation. Not only they have to worry about the next month but also worry if this will have negative influence on their future career.

“I hope we find ways to safeguard the young scientists from career damage. Maybe this is a good moment to discuss what really matters: the quality and prospects of talented young scientists or just the numbers of their output in this early stage of their careers.” Job de Kleuver

This is accompanied by the overall funding situation for the following years. Science and experiments will be delayed and also funding opportunities might get worse in the future.
Despite these worries it is great to see that science still keeps going and even new experiments get deployed (XENONnT (German), Baikal-GVD). This is also reflected in the following topics.

Online Outreach Activities

Normally many science institutes have offers for students and pupils and also the general public to get insights in their labs or allow access to their experiments. Often also school labs are an important outreach tool. All these kind of things now have to be transferred to online activities. Sometimes this can be very successful but some experience is just not possible in this way and we are looking forward to the time when we can offer hands-on-experience for our students and pupils.
Until then you can checkout these links to online accessible outreach activities for students:

Activities to support fight against COVID-19

Besides the attempt to advance everyday physics in the home office and at online conferences, many scientists and  institutes also want to participate directly in the fight against COVID-19. And many have found ways and possibilities to do so! They use their 3d printers to produce protective equipment for hospitals, many provide their computing power for virologic investigations into the structure of the coronavirus (Folding@Home, Rosetta@Home), and physicists are performing simulations on the spread of the pandemic. But it is important to keep in mind that we can only provide resources to support those who are experts in the respective field. In the following list you can find links to all kind of activities, perhaps this will motivate even more institutes to get engaged.

Development of ventilators:

Websites that list and/or coordinate activities:

  • – This website was built to facilitate interaction between COVID-19 researchers and the broader science community (Particle Physics origin)
  • – COVID-19 Ventilator Projects (List) and Resources and FAQ
  • Covid19 – Initiatives of the GYA, Young Academies and Partners – repository for global and national young academies as well as partner institutions to link their work on Covid19, any statements, or information dissemination activities, initiatives to support scientists, to coordinate and facilitate institutions or governments

Activities from individual institutes or countries:

This list of different activities shows that we defy the difficult situation and accept it as a challenge. And even if the situation seems to relax a bit at the moment, we will have to live with this, for us still unusual, situation for a longer time. 

“The Covid-19 crisis is serious and we will remember this for long, but I am convinced that things will go better again, maybe later than we had hoped. Let’s try to keep the spirit and continue as good as it can be with the exciting Astroparticle Physics science and the construction and design of new infrastructures. Let’s be prepared with excellent well-thought plans at the moment that governments will think about new investments to stimulate their economies.
And let science in general, and Astroparticle Physics more specificially, demonstrate that Europe is strong when we join the efforts and work together.
But for now, take care of your families and stay healthy!” Job de Kleuver

The list of links and information provided here is by far not complete. If you like to add something please contact us.