In February 2021 we published our call for contributions to a new blog series. The aim of this series is to showcase the diversity of excellent research that postdocs at Leibniz institutes have been contributing to illuminate the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences. This week we are going to start our series with the first interview. Thanks to the enthusiastic feedback from our fellow Leibniz postdocs we have several more interviews in the pipeline that will be published on this site in the coming weeks and months.
Before we start highlighting the fascinating work by our colleagues we want to lay out the reasoning behind this series in more detail here. The idea and motivation that sparked this series was to highlight contributions by those people that are crucial for carrying out the research on lab benches or before computer screens but are much less in the spotlight compared to professors. For many of them, including researchers from various Leibniz Institutes like Clemens Fuest or Jonas Schmidt-Chanasit, the pandemic meant they were pushed into the public spotlight like scientists have never been before. Of course we notice that some professors use their public platform to highlight that science today is largely a team sport. Among many positive examples Professor Dirk Brockmann released a 9-minute video where he praises his team of junior researchers and student assistants. Moreover, those scientists in the media spotlight have also garnered an enormous amount of social media followers. For instance, Christian Drosten from Charité Berlin has now more than 750,000 followers on Twitter. Notably, on social media there are also junior researchers giving insights into their work during the pandemic. One prominent example is Emma Hodcroft, an evolutionary virologist at the University of Berne in Switzerland. She has more than 63,000 followers on Twitter and uses her platform for extensive science communication around the phylogenetics and evolution of SARS-CoV2. In a news piece in Science in March 2021 she was quoted “I am precariously employed; I don’t have a long-term job. I feel a lot of pressure that this is my opportunity and I cannot waste that” and we think this quote is an excellent segway into our series.
With the following interviews and profiles of postdocs at the Leibniz Association we want to showcase the diversity of disciplines represented at Leibniz and how researchers with various backgrounds are trying to help us understand this exceptional situation. We also want to highlight that professional scientists who are not professors not only exist but are in fact main creators of knowledge in academic research.
PS: to learn more about how academic expertise has been communicated during the pandemic in Germany we recommend this recent preprint by researchers from the Department of Science Communication at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology.