Academic Organizations Respond to the Prolonged COVID-19 Pandemic

As the coronavirus pandemic is prolonged, Nordic and European countries are jointly strengthening research cooperation on COVID-19 to prepare for future pandemics. Organizations supporting the functions of higher education institutions are seeking new ways to support research and education.

In research, the European Commission has reserved a pledge of 1.4 billion euro to the coronavirus global response. The Commission has already launched several special actions this year to support not only epidemiological research, but also preparedness and response to outbreaks. In the research area “Society, economy, behaviour“, almost 129 million euro were awarded to 23 research projects. Though none of these directly draw on media research, many were connected to using digital health technologies.

In the Nordic Countries, NordForsk awarded 53 million Norwegian crowns (4.9 million euro) to five new research projects to study COVID-19. Projects that received funding included studying pregnancy progression, smoking and mental health vulnerability.

The major national funders of research in the Nordic Countries have also initiated new calls. Some of the calls, such as the Swedish Research Council’s re-focusing grant, are also providing already financed projects to re-purposing their research and adapting it to COVID-19.

More specialized calls for research funding based on COVID-19 are to be expected in the nearest future. At the same time, the pandemic is also being used as a dimension in research applications to make topics more relevant to the current situation. This, together with many academic events being organized with a COVID-19 lead – including NordMedia2021, the theme of which will be Crisis and resilience: Nordic media research on the frontline – will result in even more research being spurred.

Online resources and webinars

The recent report by the European Universities Association (EUA), entitled Financial and economic impact of the Covid-19 crisis on universities in Europe, provides a picture of the immediate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on university funding, based on data retrieved from 29 national university associations, including all the Nordic Countries. The report indicates that lockdown measures have caused additional costs. For example, in Norway, additional costs in the autumn of 2020 are estimated to reach 1.29 billion Norwegian crowns (118 million euro).  The association warns that the overall impact of the pandemic will be large and long-lasting and “universities must prepare for operational and financial difficulties in the coming few years”.

In teaching, the COVID-19 outbreak has caused educational institutions to switch to online learning. International organizations have responded to the pandemic in two major ways: by collecting existing online resources and organizing webinars.

The UNESCO-led MILID University Network (Media and Information Literacy and Intercultural Dialogue University Network) published a pedagogical statement entitled MIL for critical and constructive dialogue about COVID-19 and way beyond to prompt educational interventions that counteract the dissemination of disinformation. It includes, for example, a series of 50 webinars, crowdsourcing and dissemination of videos, as well as promoting large-scale open online courses, MOOC’s.

Many get-together plans have to be readjusted. HOS-NS workshops have been encouraged to be rescheduled and restructured due to travel restrictions caused by COVID-19. Nordplus has enabled funded mobility networks to extend their funding periods, and some of the financing has been allowed to be used for costs related to the development of distance learning and teaching.

Recently, the Nordic ministers of culture stated that the budget cuts for the cultural sector in the Nordic Countries, prompted by the new Vision 2030 for the Nordic cooperation that emphasizes green growth and sustainability, landed unluckily in a sector that is heavily suffering from the pandemic restrictions.

Nordic COVID-19 Responses

  • COVID-19 impact on international higher education: Studies & forecasts, a collection of studies by Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD)
  • The Swedish Research Council’s responses to COVID-19
  • The Research Council of Norway’s COVID-19 emergency call for proposals
  • The research project Pandemic rhetoric, trust and social media led by Øyvind Ihlen at the University of Oslo, funded by the Research Council of Norway
  • Nordic journalism educators’ webinar: Distansutbildning under coronatiden (in Scandinavian languages) organized by the Nordic collaboration committee for journalism education (nordiska samarbetskommittén för journalistutbildning)
  • Nordic COVID-19 Responses

    Photo: Scandinav