The ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate Extremes, like almost all research centres, navigated the challenges thrown up by Covid-19 through 2021 as well as possible. For a Centre that strives for innovation and a strong impact on business, policy and science, the inability to meet, to attend workshops, to share ideas in-person was initially confronting, then inconvenient, and finally, severely limiting. We managed this to the best of our abilities and reading through this 2021 report, the evidence would appear to suggest that the Covid situation was managed such that its impacts were negligible. We report a quite phenomenal number of very high-impact science papers, PhD completions, awards, postdoctoral fellow placements in excellent business, government or academic institutions — and so on.
I think this hides a truth. The impact of Covid-19 is long-term. We lost our annual workshops two years in a row, our research program meetings, our institutional meetings, our ad-hoc chats over a coffee or tea — the kind that triggers an idea that leads to conversation and a collaboration and, ultimately, discovery. There are PhD students who are two years into a PhD without actually having met their supervisor, or attended their host institution, or attended a conference. There are Chief Investigators who have had to pick up significant new commitments due to institutional redundancies and have lost research time.
The Centre has managed these challenges to the best of our ability but the impact is real. It is not apparent in the 2021 annual report, but it will emerge later on. The Centre’s primary goal is to minimise the impact of Covid-19 on our researchers, to re-light the spark of innovation as quickly as possible and to re-engage as a matter of urgency. This is front and centre of our thinking in the first quarter of 2022. In parallel with this are our efforts to establish the Centre of Excellence as a dominant voice in several key areas; to be influential across the area of climate extremes; to have impact on the thinking in business and government; and to engage, deeply, in helping specific sectors manage climate risk effectively. Our strategies to achieve these goals were affected by Covid-19, but re-establishing appropriate links is also front-and-centre of our thinking in the first half of 2022.
I am delighted to welcome eight new research fellows to the Centre. Despite all the institutional challenges of hiring through the Covid-19 era, issues with immigration and so on, we have been able to hire a genuinely first class group of next-generation researchers. We will do all that we can to support them in developing their careers through our outstanding Researcher Development Program.
I hope you find material in this report of interest. Please do not hesitate to contact us or the specific individuals if you want to know more about their science or our research.
Prof Andy Pitman, AO Director