Nothing has been normal, and yet, we have accomplished much.
A year ago, our action INDCOR started under fairly normal circumstances – at the meeting in Brussels, the four work groups were formed, the core group was elected and we were on our way. We had one more “normal” meeting in Vienna and ever since COVID19 has become the dominant factor in our lives. Hybrid and online meetings have become the “new normal” and the ability to travel has become severely restricted.
This is a considerable challenge for the very idea of a cost action which is to bring people together, in-person across countries. To work together, to discuss, to learn from each other, to eat, to chat, to be together and get to know each other in order to form a network and become a community. There is no magic trick to overcome this challenge. Online discussions cannot easily be continued around the coffee maker during a break or over dinner when other members visit us only as a disembodied presence on the screen.
Yet – despite the pandemic – we have accomplished much. We held all the planned meetings (“Lyon” fully online, Genoa and Istanbul as hybrid meetings with limited in-situ participation), have a website, delivered the first white paper and have grown to 36 countries and more than 140 members. We started a collective encyclopedia project that Springer wants to publish and the British Library is interested in using for their collection. We have a great communications team that distributes INDCOR news inside and outside the action. We managed to handle the hand-over of chair and vice-chair positions in WG4 and have started task forces collaborating across work groups. And we have formed additional chair positions (WG vice chairs, Inclusivity chairs, onboarding chair) to give important aspects of the actions’ work proper representation and provide opportunities for additional members to take on advanced roles. In this regard we are happy to welcome Catia Prandi as onboarding chair.
In the past couple of days, the promise of a vaccine has become a certainty, with the first vaccinations having started in the UK. This means travel will once more be possible and we can look forward to actually meeting again. To make participation possible for many members, we will move the planned spring meeting and the training school to later dates.
The pandemic will leave its mark on us and on COST actions – online, remote participation will become a normal mode of participation and is not going away. On the other hand, the value of physical presence, of actually meeting in the same space has become even more clear. We – as human beings – are made for communication with all our senses. This is what we all have been missing and why we look forward to seeing you all in person again next year.
Stay safe and stay healthy.
Mirjam and Hartmut