June 24, 2020

Inclusive working and living during the Covid-19 crisis: recommendations from digital team science in the Human Brain Project

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way we work and live, moving much of it online. But how do we make sure that digital work is successful, and becomes a valuable experience? In a recent issue of the Journal of Responsible Technology, the Human Brain Project’s Karin Grasenick and Manuel Guerrero write about responsible research and innovation and digital inclusiveness during the Covid-19 crisis and the I-Include initiative.

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Those of us who work in international inter-disciplinary research like the Human Brain Project (HBP) use digital tools and online meetings as part of day-to-day activities. However, experience aside, the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the rules. Being at home requires adjusting and new balances between work and family life, and not just our own. We depend on colleagues that might be juggling home-schooling children, shopping for elderly relatives, while doing their best to meet your deadlines. People also react differently to a crisis, and we can expect that some members of our teams experience stress and anxiety. How it affects us also depends on our roles, responsibilities and where we are in our careers.

We know that it is easier to build successful collaborations and team spirit when we work closely together. It is easier to misunderstand each other, and more difficult to include everyone, in the virtual environments we are building. To meet this challenge, the HBP launched the "I-include" initiative for Inclusive Digital Engagement to make sure that no one is “virtually” left behind, and to show that diversity matters in digital collaborations. This is part of the HBP’s commitment to responsible research and innovation. Which, according to Karen Grasenik and Manuel Guerrero, is “a dynamic, iterative process where all the stakeholders in research and innovation become mutually responsive and share responsibility for both the process and its outcomes”. Something that becomes even more important in difficult times.

In the paper, you will find recommendations from the HBP and I-include initiative on how to manage social and family life, stress and anxiety, career stages, roles and responsibilities, and how to build team spirit and virtual collaborations. The recommendations are based on seven years of experience in a geographically distributed project, with more than 100 partner institutions from nearly 20 countries collaborating online.

Further reading:

Karin Grasenick, Manuel Guerrero, Responsible Research and Innovation & Digital Inclusiveness during Covid-19 Crisis in the Human Brain Project (HBP), Journal of Responsible Technology (2020), doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrt.2020.06.001

Article written by Josepine Fernow