The novel Coronavirus has been a shock to us all, but as we step into a new era. One where the memory of endemic disease and widespread upheaval is no longer distant and theoretical, the value of scientists will be felt deeply. Communities across the world are looking anxiously to the scientific community to develop solutions in the face of the global pandemic.
It is obvious that attention in Europe and around the world is turning to pharmaceutical and biomedical research as we look for drugs to help mitigate the spread of the virus. We are also all looking to find out whether any currently used drugs can be repurposed to reduce the severity of the effects. None of this research or implementation can happen without highly qualified researchers and state of the art facilities.
In the scientific community, there has always been an awareness that it is important to maintain the ability to take strides quickly in a crisis. That awareness is now universal and is creating mass public support for more funding, more facilities and greater respect for the sciences in general. As Europe re-opens after the crisis, it will be with the same infrastructure and traditions but a new set of priorities.
University communities will batten down the hatches for the coming months, but the academic community has seen even greater storms than this in the past. Resilience is part of the scientific culture, temporary compromises are part of the scientific method itself. A benefit of academic work is that it can be safely carried on in relatively controlled conditions and the work of scientists now is generating gratitude and appreciation in government circles and in the wider public. The controlled conditions required to make progress will be of interest, particularly to government bodies and greater funding for labs and experimental facilities is already coming online.
Europe as a whole is suffering losses at the moment. Those losses will be emotionally heart wrenching but the human capacity to be galvanised by loss should not be underestimated. Governments across Europe are investing heavily in research, even now, and the pace of investment is only increasing. This is not limited to the natural and medical sciences. With drones, automation, virtual learning platforms, and communication technologies all making a crucial contribution to the crisis, the value of innovation has never been clearer. Italy has used virtual presence to enable funerals, Spain are using drones to encourage social distancing and every country in Europe is being kept functional by remote working.
Europe is perhaps uniquely well placed to recover after this crisis. After a time of mourning, our societies have the structure and governmental organisations to mobilise an effective response to repair and revitalise our collective resources. Governments are implementing stimulus packages as we speak and are poised to continue their support into the recovery phase once the virus is under control. The silver lining of the Covid-19 crisis may be that we all recognise the importance of our scientific community and foster a spirit of even greater progress in the future.