Infrastructure in the Time of Corona

Submitted by Dieter Van Uytvanck on 18 March 2020

Future studies of social media corpora will reveal a sharp increase of the lemma surreal over the past couple of months. There are multiple ways of naming the cause – Corona, COVID-19, or SARS-CoV-2 – and for sure people will come up with all kind of synonyms and related language innovations that one day will be studied by social scientists and humanities researchers.

Confronted with so many uncertainties, we would like to give a short account on a question that we can answer to a certain degree: how is CLARIN affected by the Coronavirus?

The infrastructural services that CLARIN is offering remain available as before. Here, the distributed and virtual nature of our research infrastructure helps to ensure continuity. Interestingly, the fact that we had already been collaborating remotely on a daily basis beforehand (in February 2020, we had 36 virtual meetings with 190 participants), made the transition to a quarantine-compliant working environment pretty smooth. 

Of course, there is some disruption as well, in particular when it comes to organizing and attending working meetings, training events and scientific conferences with members of our and neighbouring communities. The Centre Meeting, the Standards Committee gathering, the SSHOC consortium meeting, the RDA plenary, DH Nordic, the EURISE workshop, the DH Nordic Hackathon, various SSHOC tutorials and bootcamps and of course LREC (including workshops such as ReproLang, ParlaCLARIN and LR4SSHOC) – none of these events will take place as originally anticipated.

With a stunning degree of flexibility and creativity, as we fortunately see at many places these days, alternatives are proposed and organized, for example through webinars, such as our upcoming webinar on how to effectively combine quantitative analysis with qualitative insights when working with text corpora in order to be able to validate the findings which will be given by Andreas Blätte, professor of Public Policy and Regional Politics at the University of Duisburg-Essen on 16 April from 11:00 AM–12:00 PM. For sure these efforts will help to maintain the thriving spirit behind the language resources and technology community.

As said before: we cannot adequately predict the near future. But at least our infrastructure, and even more so the people behind it, have demonstrated a hope-giving robustness and flexibility. We would like to thank you for this, and we foremost wish you good health!

the CLARIN Board of Directors – Franciska de Jong, Darja Fišer, Dieter Van Uytvanck, Andreas Witt