Thank heavens for the internet!

April 1, 2020

I wrote recently about the changes to the Crawford Fund’s activities for the foreseeable future, due to the terrible toll of COVID-19 on the way we all go about our lives and businesses.

I’m proud to say that up until just the last few weeks, the Crawford Fund has maintained its impressive set of training, mentoring, NextGen and public awareness activities, as shown by reports in this e-Highlights.

Like many of our stakeholder organisations and individuals involved in the Fund’s work, the months ahead will no doubt mean we all learn how we can utilise the internet to even greater effect to maintain a semblance of ‘business as usual’.  Effective internet communication is going to be critical if we are to sustain scientific discourse and maintain contact with the overseas scientists and farming communities that many of you, like us, have been working with over the years.

This year has been pretty horrific so far, with the bush fires, hailstorms and floods in several regions and now the corona virus pandemic.  The measures that we are all having to take are severely curtailing practical on-ground activities.  Furthermore, we don’t know for how long.  Having worked overseas in developing countries, I am also very worried how many communities living in crowded and cramped conditions and without access to high quality health care will manage to survive the pandemic unscathed, and the impact on their food and nutrition security. 

Action to date

What we have done so far at the Crawford Fund has been to ensure that all our trainers, mentors, volunteers and student awardees are back in Australia and we have implemented a work from home model in central office.  We anticipate that allocated, but unspent training and student awards will be available to be reallocated once there is an all clear for international and domestic travel. And we are progressing with our 2020 Student Awards, with applications closing on 26 June, but travel to be taken in accordance with DFAT directives. Prevailing circumstances mean that we have had to postpone the 2020 Annual Conference and conference scholarships until 22-23 March next year and similarly, postpone the Master Class in Agricultural Research Leadership and Management, usually held in Penang, Malaysia in November, until May next year. 

Plans ahead

We are using the current period to do a degree of strategic thinking about future directions and priorities and to use the considerable intellectual capacity of our community to contribute to some discussion papers on key topics including agricultural biosecurity and the threats to human health from zoonotic diseases.   

Furthermore, we will be working to determine how the Crawford Fund and the RAIDnetwork can develop webinars and more virtual meetings to maintain vital networks.

Another possibility is that we establish and promote some e-discussion groups around key topical areas, and if there is a need, look at possibilities for additional e-mentoring of research students and early career professionals.   

Please visit our website from time to time to see what is being planned or follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for up to the minute news. And this e-newsletter, while no longer distributed monthly, will be in your inbox each quarter to keep you informed.

Your feedback please

I would be very keen to hear from you about the need for these and other potential activities that we could support.  These may also create opportunities and benefits for our boosted NextGen program, which is again being supported by ACIAR to promote study, careers and volunteering in international agriculture and agricultural research.

I will conclude by wishing you all good health and encourage you to observe all the social distancing and self-isolation rules promoted by governments. 


Colin Chartres

CEO, Crawford Fund