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Homeworking: opportunities for scientists

Covid-19 is causing world wide chaos and it is terrible. However that is not what this post is about. This post is about staying positive and finding opportunities. Why? Amidst this chaos it is important to stay sane. You are no good to anyone if you become a nervous wreck. You need to stay strong to be able to help your family and friends.

My work is basically centered around helping people get more scientific value out of the computational resources we have available to us. Some of it is technical; working with computers. And some of it is softer; working with people. Just over a week ago I started working from home. The technical aspects of my work have been relatively easy to transition. The softer parts of my work still have some way to go. I’m learning more and more about different types of video conferencing software. To me this presents an opportunity because I have wanted to do more home working for a while. The current situation has accelerated that process and I’m keen to make sure I learn to work from home more efficiently.

Clearly it is easier to work from home if your research is mainly computational. However, if you are a bench scientist perhaps this presents new opportunities for you as well. Perhaps this presents an opportunity to learn more about computational approaches? Perhaps this is the time to learn R? If you are looking for something like this I have written a book to help you: The Biologist’s Guide to Computing (it is free).

Or perhaps this presents an opportunity to go over all your old data? (Or, heaven forbid, an opportunity to do some data management? I have also written software to make this easier: dtool. It is also free.) Going over old data with fresh eyes can sometimes lead to new insights and generate ideas for new manuscripts. Speaking of manuscripts perhaps this period of working at home presents an opportunity for you to finish up and submit those manuscripts that have been weighing on your mind for the past couple of years.

On a different note, schools closed in the UK on Monday and it is likely to remain that way for the next four months or so. I’ll therefore be one of the many parents juggling home schooling and working at the same time.

What opportunities present themselves here?

I’ll be spending much more time with my son. That means that I’ll have an opportunity to teach him about things where I have specialist knowledge. In particular I am hoping to teach him Python programming. There are lots of great books out there for teaching kids how to program. I’ve invested in a copy of Computer Coding Python Games for Kids, because I had a good experience with a similar book called Coding Games in Scratch from the same series.

I do not have the skill to do anything to help stop the spread of Covid-19. However, I do have the skills to help you develop your computational and data management expertise. Please get in touch if this is something that you would be interested in. Stay safe, stay sane and stay positive!

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