Call for Contributors: Research and Writing in the Time of COVID-19

Laneway, Rural Saskatchewan (photo credit: Andrew Watson)

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The spring and summer is that part of the year when most scholars turn a greater part of their attention to research and writing. The COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult, if not impossible, for many of us to carry out the work we thought we would this year. Indeed, the context of lockdown, social distancing, and essential work calls into question our twenty-first understandings of “being productive.”

In early May, the University of Saskatchewan Faculty Association sent an email to its members with a list of six principles for working during the pandemic.

  1. You are not “working from home,” you are “at your home, during a crisis, trying to work.”
  2. Your personal physical, mental and emotional health are far more important than anything else right now.
  3. You should not try to compensate for lost productivity by working longer hours.
  4. You will be kind to yourself and not judge how you are coping based on how you see others coping.
  5. You will be kind to others and not judge how they are coping based on how you are coping.
  6. Your success will not be measured the same way it was when things were normal.

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Notwithstanding such empathetic interventions, it is clear, several months into this pandemic, that COVID-19 has not affected all scholars equally. Submissions from women scholars to peer-reviewed publications and preprint servers have fallen significantly, as many face heightened caring responsibilities for children, elders, and other vulnerable people in their immediate and extended families. Precariously employed scholars face a further tightening of opportunities for employment, or must make the transition to emergency remote instruction with fewer means of support than securely employed colleagues. Many older scholars, and scholars with health conditions that place them at greater risk of becoming seriously ill should they be infected, are dealing with heightened levels of stress, anxiety, and loneliness. Black scholars, Indigenous scholars, and scholars of colour face greater levels of risk, because of the many and multigenerational effects of structural racism in health care systems. In recent weeks, many such scholars and their allies are now also investing significant time and energy in protesting and educating people about anti-Black racism and police brutality. In short, many scholars may not be able to – or may not want to – prioritize research and writing this summer.

So how can environmental historians and historical geographers adjust to, and cope with, what the present realities mean for each of our research and writing programs? And how might our experiences during the pandemic inform new patterns of scholarly work – and perhaps also activism within and beyond the academy?

NiCHE is interested in hearing from you on these questions for a series tentatively titled “To Research and Write, or Not, in the Time of COVID-19.”

We’re inviting submissions of short essays of 500–1000 words that examine your approach to, or thoughts about, research and writing during the pandemic. Possible topics may include:

  • the kinds of research and writing that have been possible during the lockdown
  • how the pandemic has shaped/will shape our writing of environmental history
  • being an environmental historian when archival research isn’t possible
  • research and writing as self-care, rather than as “being productive”
  • learning to work less, or work more carefully
  • being unable to work, or choosing to prioritize activities beyond work
  • discovering new ideas and interests

We’d love to hear about any other suggestions for this series, too!

If you are interested in contributing to this series, please email Andrew Watson (a.watson @ by June 30, 2020.

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