And now what

where to go from here

As the spectre of a new lockdown approaches the Netherlands, I find myself wondering what are the prospects for the upcoming months. Well, hopefully, things will be better than last year given that the amount of vaccinations is pretty high and there should be no big problems in terms of mobility for those who were vaccinated. This is good as I intend to pass Xmas together with my family and friends back in Italy, unlike last year. However, the fact that the spread of the virus continus in spite of the high number of vaccinated people poses a big question of what will happen in terms of work. Does it remain fully online or a mix between in-person and online research/teaching will be required from now on? going back to fully in-person work seems pretty unlikely, at least for now and for the next few months. I must say that, although I feel quite ok in working from home in terms of research, I think students really need an in-person discussion and feedback in order to improve the efficacy of what we want them to lear. I expericenced this myself by comparing the teaching I did last year with respect to this year, and I noticed how students get so much more from an in-person lecture/tutorial compared to an online one. The context and environment is not the same and I am pretty sure attention is quickly lost when people can have access to easy distraction elements, especially when they attend from the comfort of their own house. With this I simply hope that at least the teaching part of my job will remain on-site as I believe this is the most effective way to teach students and capture their attention, of course if this does not pose any real threat to their health. Personally, I also feel much better knowing that I need to go to an office at least once a week where I have the chance to chat with colleagues and fuly focus on my work and duties but I would also understand who prefers to work from home because of family or other more important issues.

At the moment I have a bit of a break from my teaching and I am focussing on my research (finally!). I need to take advantage of this moment as much as possible as form January things will become again a bit hazy due to the many courses I will be involved with. I have started and continued projects with different people both here in Maastricht but also with some old colleagues I met in London with whom I still have conctact. Hopefully, I will be able to finalise and submit at least a couple of papers before the end of the year and enjoy my break aftrwards. I will also need to look up for some grant applications for the upcoming year as this is an important (although often annoying) part of my job. The unfortunate thing is that, in the Netherlands, there is no national grant specifically dedicated to statistics but applications should be made with respect to some specific research field such as medicine, engineering, neuroscience, etc… I am not a big fan of this type of applications as the lack of statistical background in the people sitting in the evluating committees is often the reason why applications too foucssed on statistical aspects end up being rejected. I suspect this is what happened to my application at the VENI research scheme last year, despite the fact I received a good evaluation of my CV. It also makes sense as if people are not going to understand how your work can be applied in practice to enhance people’s lives, then there is no way they are going to decide in favour of your proposal compared to some applied research work in an area they are familiar with, for example. I need to figure out a smart way to combine my interest in developing new stats methods with some interesting applied work, at leats from the perspective of the evaluators. This is not easy as competition is also strong for these types of grants and I need to ask for some help from more experienced colleagues to learn how to write things in a more appeling and interesing way for someone who does not know much about statistics.

Finally, I have also started looking for some future conferences to attend (hopefully in person) in the upcoming year. I found a couple related to HE that I would eager to attend.

  • The first is a Dutch-specific HE conference called lola HESG, which this year will be held here in Maastricht. From my understanding this was established in a similar way to what HESG has been organised in the UK, i.e. as a way to share knowledge and build connections among people involved in the analysis of HE data and problems. The format is also very alike as authors are asked to present and discuss the work of colleagues, rather than their own, and to discuss this with someone else. Based on my experience at HESG this format can be really helpfull, especially for people just starting doing reasearch to find some possible collaborations or new ideas to work on. Given that it is here, I would have basically zero costs to sustain and therefore I hope I will have the chance to join this conference and meet some new faces.

  • The second is the EuHEA conference 2022, which will be held in Oslo. I have never been to this type of conference but I know that it mostly deals with HE problems and appications for UK and EU countries. I would like to attend this one too as it will provide the chance to receive some nice feedback from expert authors in the area of the statistical analysis of HE data. Although I am quite experienced with it, there is always room for improvement and personal deveopment and I believe this could be the perfect occasion to have an update about what other people in this sector are up to (I have been left a bit behind since last year given that I missed most of the online conferences). This issue is that this is typically not a cheap conference and I find myself in troubles in the event the department will not be able to fund it (given that I might also attend the other conference in the same year).

So, overall lots to look forward to in the upcoming months where I hope I can start working again on my research projects that were put aside. There are still lots of things which are uncertain but I need to start planning my work since now to avoid potential on the go. And in the event such problems arise, as always, we will do the only thing we can do. We will adapt!