To the computing research community –
From my calendar, March 4, 2020: Working on a Mobicom submission, meeting a faculty candidate one-on-one, meeting with two students for an ongoing research project, meeting with the undergraduate lead for the Bits of Good student organization, talking by phone to a department chair about a two-body opportunity. Anticipating my younger daughter coming home for spring break. Going to yoga.
4 weeks later: BlueJeans presentations by three project participants, BlueJeans faculty candidate talk, Skype research meeting with two students on same ongoing research project, Zoom call about CRA strategic planning, BlueJeans student presentation for Bits of Good organization, one more BlueJeans meeting. Daughter is home for good. Yoga by YouTube.
Much is the same. Surprisingly much is the same. But also everything is different.
I was thinking about what is worth saying here that you aren’t already hearing in many other places, and it came down to this: we are a community, and communities take care of each other in a crisis. For us – the computing research community – that means watching out for and assisting, where possible, those who are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and the attendant disruptions to our work of teaching and research. In our community, this means junior faculty, postdocs, and graduate students. Starting an academic research career is hard; COVID is adding the stress of work-life imbalance, delays in receiving lab equipment, limited opportunity to work closely with new students. Finishing a PhD and launching into the research job market is hard; COVID is disrupting hiring processes and plans. Being a graduate student can be a lonely experience the best of times, now compounded by shelter-in-place orders.
If you have the capacity to do so, please reach out to check in with those in your sphere who you normally mentor. Expand your outreach to those you could mentor but don’t normally. Offer listening and advice on how and what to prioritize. Provide assurances that the long tail of this disruption will be understood and accounted for in program committees, proposal reviews, teaching evaluations, promotion and tenure processes. And when the time comes, make good on that assurance.
Please stay safe.
Ellen Zegura, CRA Board Chair