'An Obligation to the Community' — AUC's Pandemic and Post-Pandemic Research and Innovation Initiative


“We have a role and an obligation to the community,” said Alaa-Eldin Adris, associate provost for research, innovation and creativity, when asked about the purpose of AUC's Pandemic and Post-Pandemic Research and Innovation Initiative, which called for research proposals from across the University that address current and forthcoming issues brought on by the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Out of 26 proposals, 10 were chosen for funding. The selected projects span a number of disciplines, including physics and biology, psychology and sociology, education, business management and more.

“When choosing, we looked at eligibility, assessment of potential impact, quality of the work plan, how realistic it is, effectiveness of budget estimates and the skill set of the team,” Adris said. 

However, the most important factor, and the one that lies at the core of this initiative, is the potential impact that the project can have on the local and global community. Adris said that while AUC doesn’t have a medical or pharmacy school, it has an array of multidisciplinary programs such as global health, public policy and economics that can provide sustainable short-term and long-term solutions to the crisis. 

“We can translate the knowledge we have into a societal value,” he said. 

Adris stated the two objectives of this initiative: Firstly, it aims to find ways of impacting the pandemic crisis during the current time, such as coming up with better ways to respond to the situation. The second is to understand the repercussions of what’s happening now and to prepare for them in order to better deal with them when they come. 

“For responding to the current situation, we have a number of research initiatives underway, like the work on antiseptics that will help with the speed of disinfection in different places,” Adris said, mentioning some of the approved proposals. “We also have a project on face masks with certain characteristics for higher protection.” 

For projects focusing on society post-pandemic, Adris highlighted ones that deal with the future of education, the psychological effects of the quarantine and the changing dynamics of the workplace. 

“One project is for addressing modes of knowledge delivery and another on the assessment of knowledge acquisition,” he said. “In psychology, we’re trying to understand the phenomenon of isolation and how it’s going to affect people, and another AUC research project is focused on how remote work is going to change the workplace and choices of corporations in the future.”

The projects that look at responses to the current situation are set to be completed within six months, while the ones addressing post-pandemic issues have an up to one year execution plan. 

As for what the results of these projects look like, Adris said there are a number of possibilities. 

“It can be a product like the masks themselves,” he said. “It can be an important policy paper that is distributed and shared with the government. It can be an impactful publication in an international journal that enriches the academic pool of knowledge and scientific debate.” 

But above all, the most important results that come out of these projects, he emphasized, are the ones that will affect the lives of people, create the foundations for or discover sustainable solutions and contribute to the global fight against COVID-19 with the research, scholarship and innovation that AUC can deliver.

“We fulfill our mission through teaching, research and community service,” Adris said. "The 10 COVID-19 projects are essentially a way by which AUC fulfills its mission as a higher education institution at a time of crisis."