Dear RSA Member and the wider community
As the Coronavirus pandemic has spread across the globe, albeit unevenly from country to country, so our universities, colleges and institutes have closed. Many of you, like me, will be trying to work at home, physically isolated from our colleagues and associates. Working from home under current circumstances is not easy, and it is hard to concentrate while many hundreds of thousands of health workers, public service personnel, social carers, food industry suppliers and other essential workers are risking their own health to help to keep us all safe. Yet continuing some academic work is important for our own mental health. The most useful advice I’ve found is that we should take things slowly, not be overly ambitious about goals and plans, and ease our way into this ‘new normal’: we could be in this mode for some time.
The Coronavirus pandemic is spiralling the world into multiple and related crises: health, social and economic; while at the same time the threat of increasing climate change continues to mount. It is very unlikely, when the pandemic is over that social and economic life will simply return to its pre-pandemic state – nor should it: how we organise our lives and our social and economic systems will need to be rethought. The importance of properly funding health and social services, of reducing social and spatial inequalities in incomes and welfare, of reorganising supply chains and productions systems to make them less geographically fragmented and less fragile, of making future economic growth both more inclusive and sustainable, these all, it is to be hoped, will become key imperatives of policy innovation. What is certainly clear is that the impacts and consequences of the current crises will vary not only between countries, but also within them, between regions, cities and localities, thereby elevating the need for policies that incorporate explicit initiatives that are sensitive and specific to individual places.
As members of the Regional Studies association we all belong to a virtual academic community, a global network of colleagues whom we may not be able to meet face to face, but with whom we can interact remotely, both individually one with another, and via the Association’s website services. Perhaps our own working habits will have to change in the future, for example, involving less global travel to big conferences (increasingly less defensible anyway given climate change). The importance of the RSA as a virtual academic and policy community is certain to increase. The Association will continue to lead in the innovation of ways to help forge and cement the ties of academic friendship that unite us.
As we face the weeks ahead, do take every care to keep yourself and your loved ones well and safe: nothing is more important. And give one another and those around you all the support you can. We will come through these unprecedented times together.
Professor Ron Martin
President of the Regional Studies Association