1 April, 2021
2020 was an extraordinary year. Along with the rest of the world, we pivoted to find ways to best support our people through these times.
The plans of many of our people were turned upside down. Over half of the PhD students we fund would ordinarily head offshore for a period after graduation, often for postdoctoral research. As international opportunities disappeared, we re-prioritised funding to create a range of internships and research associate positions for our fresh PhD graduates, often in industry-facing roles, in international collaborations, or new interdisciplinary projects that continue to hone the skills of Aotearoa New Zealand’s future R&D leaders.
We offered 3-month scholarship extensions to over 60 PhD students as soon as the first lockdowns struck.
With Covid-19 disrupting in-person activities, we jumped at the chance to initiate an online 'Commercial Skill Building' seminar series, in partnership with Auckland UniServices and Return on Science and commenced an online platform for regular engagement between technology companies and our scientists in the form of an Industry Advisory Panel.
For organisations running educational outreach and engagement programmes, Covid-19 provided enormous challenges but also the proverbial opportunities. We took the chance to redevelop our resources and reconfigured what we do to reach our audiences via an online environment. We ran our annual Regional Lecture Series as online webinars, started a quirky podcast series and supported our students to make animated videos of both their own work and some of our ‘Materials: Fact or Fiction’ episodes (our partnership series with RadioNZ Nights).
Covid-19 also gave us a nudge to look within the Institute for individuals and groups needing better support. This led us to establish a women's network and to give further impetus to our ongoing wellbeing work.
Covid-19 presented a massive disruption to the academic workforce, particularly for PhD students and early career researchers, who face uncertainty about their future career prospects inside academia and options outside the university walls. To give some insight to our students and recent alumni we arranged a joint webinar with our Australian partners FLEET, about career and post-PhD job market insights in our current pandemic times.
The arrival of Covid has also had a significant impact on the tourism industry. Our Partner, Whakarewarewa Village, is developing new and innovative approaches in response to the new tourism environment.