ECNP e-news
Message of the President
Wednesday 28 October 2020

ECNP President Gitte Moos Knudsen

Science in the time of corona

Last time I wrote, we had just begun the first day of our ECNP online congress and had witnessed a large number of attendees. In the end, 4,542 participants from 98 countries registered to watch the 180 speakers, view the 821 posters, visit the 24 exhibition stands, and join the 17 industrial sessions.

Interestingly, more than 1,200 people have chosen to come back after the congress to (re)visit the content, which by the way continues to be online until 15 December 2020. So do not despair if you missed your favourite speaker – you can still attend!

As the fall has progressed, so too unfortunately has the Covid-19 pandemic. After a relatively quiet summer, most European countries have over the last weeks turned orange again (i.e., meaning that travel is not recommended). There is some encouraging news though, with fewer hospitalised patients and lower mortality rates this time, partly because this wave is mostly driven by young people, and partly because the treatment of Covid-19 has improved.

Regardless, ECNP has decided to go virtual with its Workshop in Nice in March 2021. Debating posters in crammed areas with considerable background noise while sipping wine is fantastic for networking and developing science and presentation skills, but incompatible with limiting the spread of the RNA virus. The same considerations apply for our upcoming Child and Adolescent School and Seminars.

I am particularly sad for the young scientists who are at risk of becoming additional victims of the Covid-19 pandemic. Not only has it been difficult for them to conduct their studies because many laboratories have been shut down for extended periods of time, but they have also been deprived of participation in congresses and networking events. Many of them have also been faced with coping with work while taking care of their children at home, a highly stressful situation. Most of them will not be given the opportunity to extend their studies because funding agencies are only willing to prolong their grants, not to compensate for the time lost.

Speaking of grants, ECNP has had the opportunity to review and comment on the first draft of Health of the Horizon Europe Work Programme 2021-2022, Cluster 1. Overall, we were pleased to find much mention of brain disorders, including mental health, in the calls. We believe that our ECNP Networks will get many opportunities to submit grant proposals of relevance for this work programme. As we have seen in the more recent years, the programme, however, also includes topics that generally are very broad. This means that it is inclusive, but also that it is open to a huge number of submissions, which potentially weakens its effectiveness, not only because it is likely to result in many rejections and wasted work, but also because the need for reviewers will be enormous. But the bottom line is that the programme looks promising for all of us working within applied and translational neuroscience. In these difficult times this is news to be welcomed.

Stay healthy!

Gitte Moos Knudsen
ECNP President
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