by Stephen Gray
Here we are, just past the midway point of 2020, a year which I’m sure future historians will look back on with intrigue and curiosity. (Am I the only fan of the Netflix series Dark? Any other fans might have a wry smile at the thought of future historians looking back on the present…)

Those of us living through 2020 can’t do much other than take one day at a time and remember to proactively focus on self-care. At the start of the Covid pandemic I hypothesised that many people would go through three stages in our personal responses to remote working arrangements and isolation. I think these have more or less played out for many people.

Firstly, there was the initial anxiety and stress associated with the virus and suddenly being thrown into new ways of working at home, juggling spaces shared with family or flatmates or being confronted with solitude and isolation, with few opportunities to go out. 

Secondly, there’s a period of adaptation and acceptance and finding some sort of a groove, albeit a tentative balance that could be easily knocked off-kilter.

Then thirdly there’s a sense of malaise. Monotony has set in and there’s still uncertainty about how long it will be before the old familiar ways will return, and how many speedbumps and returns to lockdown we hit along the way. This third phase requires a combination of self-awareness, self-kindness and self-discipline to form good patterns and habits that support us to stay focused; not only on work but all the things in life we value. In fact, the latter is critically important to help maintain healthy patterns in our work.

If there’s a silver lining it’s that there has been real opportunity for reflection on what motivates us, our interdependencies with friends, family and colleagues and greater focus on how we care for ourselves and others. This can be summarised by the keyword compassion.

Another silver lining is that there’s clearer recognition that productivity and collaboration don’t equate to being at a desk 9-5 Monday to Friday. There has also been innovation and creative adoption of new ways of staying connected, many of which will continue to be useful even when we’re not physically connected. There’s also a quite visceral appreciation for the benefits of face-to-face interaction and no doubt most of us are hankering for chats with colleagues we bump into in the tea room.

Reading the CLEX weekly updates and seeing all the activity reported in Cle(v)er over the past few months is a good snapshot of the CLEX community which is still very much engaged and collaborating on superb science and communicating with wide audiences. To date we have published over 60 papers, run dozens of virtual research meetings, had over 100 people participate in various graduate program workshops and activities. We have welcomed eight new honours students and 15 new postgraduate students. We have celebrated eight PhD and Masters submissions since the beginning of the year. These are just some of the measures that point to a vibrant, active and lively research centre.