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New international research questions

News: Apr 27, 2020

Postponed projects, cancelled trips and field work, but also new questions to focus on.
The corona crisis has shaken up and changed the conditions for international research partnerships in the Global South.

“Of course, the crisis is very palpable for those of us who live and work in an international setting, says Gunnar Köhlin, Director of the Environment for Development at the School of Business, Economics and Law.”

This unit, which coordinates 15 environmental economy centres around the world in their work on research around the environment and poverty alleviation in the Global South, focused during the initial stages of the corona crisis on ensuring the health of their colleagues.

“All potentially hazardous operations were halted. Subsequently, we have asked our funders, especially Sida, for permission to let our research projects take longer than planned.”

The environmental economists are among the most frequent travellers at the University of Gothenburg. With a complete halt to air travel workshops, field work, annual meetings and conferences have been cancelled around the world. But this does not mean that international collaboration has halted – it just looks different.

“In a way, it is even more intense. We have previously invested quite heavily in video conferencing technology, which we are benefiting from now. We are in full swing and collaborate on planning and conduct studies together. It is really only the data gathering that is being delayed.”

Good software solutions

“In a sense, the crisis came at an opportune time. Video technology has been around for a long time, but it is only now that it has matured sufficiently, both in terms of software solutions and bandwidth. I believe this will have a substantial impact on our way of working in the future, and that we will be talking about pre and post March 2020.”

Gunnar Köhlin also believes that the coronavirus and its consequences will affect research and its focus.

“There are already plenty of ideas. It is of particular interest to us, as the environment is being dramatically impacted by the restrictions. What will happen now that people are suddenly experiencing clean air in the Asian mega cities?”

Anja Karlsson Franck, lecturer at the School of Global Studies, is also saying that her research, which mainly concerns migration and borders, will have a new focus.

“The corona crisis does affect border policies and people’s mobility. What will happen when the borders are reopened? Will the rules that have been rolled out be rescinded? Another aspect, which directly impacts one of my research projects, is how to manage the spread of the coronavirus in the refugee camps on the Greek islands or in Libya, where people are being locked up.”

Otherwise, it mostly concerns cancelled meetings abroad and postponed projects and field work. One project about how migrants from Burma are seeking protection in Malaysia and Thailand, for example, has had to be delayed. The international collaboration continues via link.

“We are really not more affected than anyone else. When you are living in quarantine, you are just as close to someone in Amsterdam, where my colleagues are, as to someone sitting at Linnégatan in Gothenburg. Everyone with research projects in Sweden is experiencing the same situation. Everything that is based on human relations and contact is currently very complicated.”

The importance of human interaction

What does it mean to not meet in person? What does human interaction provide? Anja Karlsson Franck has pondered these questions a lot since she started working in quarantine, particularly when lecturing.

“It is a strange feeling speaking in front of 38 empty squares with name tags. The opportunities for the students to affect what is happening is very limited in a Zoom situation. When I am speaking in a classroom, the students influence me using signals they give out through body language. The same thing is true for research interviews. A lot depends on the specific situation, people’s facial expressions, smiles and so on. You can always garner the facts but when it involves generating greater understanding, so much is lost.”


Originally published on: medarbetarportalen.gu.se

Page Manager: Communications Officer|Last update: 10/25/2012

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