Connect and Protect

COVID-19 has stopped us all in our tracks. The organisers of the European Geoscience Union’s (EGU) General Assembly halted registrations. Field trips and lab work have been cancelled. Our homes have become our offices. And almost everyone’s plans for the past and next few weeks have been disrupted. At Communications Earth & Environment, we had been looking forward to engaging with the Earth, environmental and planetary science community at the EGU General Assembly in Vienna (as well as at various meetings throughout spring and summer), following our open call for submissions in mid-February. 

Despite widespread lock-downs, in our roles as journal editors, conference organisers and researchers alike, we are all resurrecting what we can of our aims and hopes for the spring of 2020, on different channels and in various forms and shapes. EGU’s General Assembly has been transformed into an online experience, “EGU2020: Sharing Geoscience Online” in a rapid-action initiative that will help with communicating the latest geoscience (and, as an unexpected benefit, be free and open to all). At Communications Earth & Environment, we are, of course, keen on seeing how the science has evolved. In addition, however, we had high hopes for many fruitful informal meetings and conversations; over coffee, before and after sessions, after a full day of talks, and – following experiences in previous years – even while riding on U-Bahn trains full of geoscientists.

Without that option for direct contact – and indeed, after weeks of social distancing and lock-down, the prospect of entering a crowded train seems all too daunting – we are keen to hear from prospective authors in alternative formats. We would love to introduce our vision for our open access community journal, and to learn what our authors, readers and reviewers really care about in their favourite journal.

So, if you would like to run a content idea past us, or would like to hear more about the journal, we are very happy to set up informal online discussion meetings between the editorial team here at Communications Earth & Environment and any (small) group of Earth, environmental and planetary science researchers. Please just get in touch at commsenv@nature.com.

We are acutely aware that the current lock-down is particularly hard on early career researchers, who are often on time-limited contracts and may miss out on their only opportunity for a research trip, or must meet firm deadlines for handing in their theses or reports. Many will also have responsibilities for young families, whose - usually carefully balanced - childcare arrangements have disintegrated. We would like to help with bringing these issues to a broader attention.

So if the current lock-down has stopped you in your tracks early on in your career – for example, on the path to completing your PhD or your post-doc project – and you have solutions to share with others, or have experienced difficulties that deserve broader attention but are slipping through the cracks, please do drop us a note (also at commsenv@nature.com). We will collate and publicise the most pertinent points.

The global COVID-19 pandemic has caused, and will continue to cause much sadness and destruction. It has also forced people around the world to pause and rethink. The resulting surge of innovative ideas is bound to contain many schemes to be cherished, and practices to be continued. 

If we can learn during this difficult time how to reach out to each other, protect those in vulnerable positions, and connect the global research community without flying around the globe, then we will have achieved something to be proud of. Let us make a start.



Heike Langenberg
Chief Editor, Communications Earth & Environment

Joseph Aslin
Associate Editor, Communications Earth & Environment