Just before Christmas the Dutch Research Council announced that there would be no extension of the January deadline for their Dutch Research Agenda funding scheme. Damn. Who does not like an extension? This extension was especially desired by many applicants recently thrust into the sleep-destroying care-work balance of the second total lockdown. Acknowledging the strain this would place on carers especially, the Council described this as a difficult decision, one not benefiting everyone, but that it was (in the English translation at least), the “best solution for science”.
While understanding the complexities of logistics shaping this decision-making process, the announcement phrasing did not sit well in my over-caffeinated stomach. I pondered this “best solution” while Paw Patrol screeched in the background. What more is there to say on this topic? We know that despite wonderful exceptions most carers are statistically women, women submitting less journal articles and starting fewer projects since the pandemic hit. We can only guess that there may also have been an effect on who - whether women, fathers or others effected – could submit applications to the national funding scheme. And at what level of quality (i.e. on how much sleep).
The incompatibility of caring and the achievement of traditional markers of scientific success are being well documented. What we do not know, however, is what the longer-term effects of spending more time at home with our children, sick friends and older family members may be. Will it lead to more empathetic, more imaginative, scientific questions? To new creative solutions and ways of working together? To further rethinking markers of success altogether? Could this situation be better for science after all? We can only hope that there are enough of those currently struggling left on “the other side” of this crisis, to help find out the answers.
Anna Harris, associate professor department of Society Studies; Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences