Interviews conducted by Carey Schafer, Web Content Developer, USF College of Marine Science
One Researcher’s Perspective – Ethan Goddard
Quotes have been edited for clarity and brevity.
Q: It’s now been over four months since the pandemic largely disrupted our lives. How has your work been impacted?
A: I have found that not much has actually changed from my typical ‘normal’ day-to-day reality, other than the lack of people knocking on my door each day - which I miss! User demand for the analytical resources that I manage has not abated significantly and, though the graduate student and faculty users that need these resources have deftly managed to adapt their practice in accordance with social distancing guidelines, the collateral effect of steady use keeps me on my toes vis-a-vis troubleshooting, repair, maintenance, data quality control, and operational support.
Q: Long term, what impacts do you see this pandemic having on the field of marine science or academia as a whole?
A: The analytical resources I manage are expensive to maintain and keep available for researchers and students at CMS, USF, and the agency partners we frequently support. Laboratory operations are entirely recharge supported (meaning users pay for services from research awards), but changes to the external funding environment have not yet trickled down to the recharge-based facilities that I manage. I am spending a lot of time thinking about ways to achieve operating cost optimizations that will help the facilities survive with an increasingly uncertain recharge base.
Q: There are certainly a lot of negatives associated with the disruption to our regular schedules. Have you found anything positive or unexpected that has come along with this change?
A: I have found the quiet to be nice. I am lucky to have the ability to leave my home on a regular basis and continue to work in a safe, controlled environment away from my fantastic partner and two teenage children. I know that many do not have this privilege. The dramatic reduction in human interaction has given me more space to think deeply about how to contribute more to our collective research and education enterprise.
Q: There is a distinct possibility remote teaching will continue for the entirety of the fall semester. In your opinion, what aspects of marine science education are effective in a remote format and what are better taught in-person?
A: The teaching that I do is mostly technical and one-on-one. I think that in-person and in-depth technical training is a critical, but under-evaluated and credited, component of graduate education and I hope that it will be able to continue. That said, I have had several effective remote-teaching interactions over the past few months and I anticipate that those will be more common going forward.
Q: Moving forward, do you think the USF College of Marine Science or academia as a whole will be more willing to embrace a hybrid-type approach when it comes to working and learning?
A: I think CMS should seriously think about evolving our academic and administrative culture so that students and faculty have significant blocks of time (daily, weekly, monthly, annually) where they are free to voluntarily isolate and work distraction free on their research. This would likely be at the expense of faculty and student "service" hours, but if developed wisely has the potential to push our collective scientific output to a new level and enable us to implement the sociocultural, administrative, and academic changes that are important to many in our community.
Q: What shortcomings within academia, if any, has this pandemic brought to light and how could we work to fix those?
A: I am very concerned about how, once work-from-home rules were implemented, the people that support our enterprise were somewhat or largely forgotten - out of sight, out of mind. We have maintained and even strengthened lines of communication between faculty, graduate students, and technical and administrative staff, but the colleagues that are our ‘front line workers’ at the physical plant and front desk seem to be out of the loop. I think this is because so much of our communication and connection to these incredible people happens face-to-face and ‘in the seams’ of our workday. I worry that if the frequency of our incidental hallway ‘hellos’ and ‘water-cooler’ conversations does not increase we will have lost something that is vital to morale and workplace quality of life.