Pep Torn Poch
Director of the Library of the European University Institute (Florence) and member of the Leadership Programmes working group at LiberEurope.eu
What would you highlight about Florence's handling of the crisis?
The Covid-19 crisis struck Italy a few weeks earlier than in the rest of Europe. It was perhaps for this reason that several professors at my university began to work on data collection and management earlier than was the case in other research centers. The first Covid-19 data repository for social sciences was created here, coordinated by David Levine, professor of Economics at EUI and at Washington University in Saint Louis. The most urgent research is in medicine and pharmaceutics, but almost all disciplines are directly implicated: economics, sociology, and politics, etc. The work that has been carried out In identifying and collecting data for good academic research and presenting it on one portal has put Florence and the EUI at the forefront of the study of the impact of the pandemic.
How has Barcelona's handling of the crisis been viewed in Florence?
Italy did not take much interest in what was happening outside the country until the situation was generally viewed to be under control here. As a result, Barcelona appeared only very sporadically in the Italian media. There is a certain (reciprocal) tendency for people to compare life in Italy with Spain in many different areas, and the virus has naturally been no exception. Barcelona's management was initially seen as better than Milan's, for example, a city which it is often compared to. But it was perhaps surprising that Barcelona suffered such an immediate crisis, considering that Spain was one of the first countries to stop air connections with Italy and air connections between the large Italian cities and Barcelona had been very frequent. Little use was made of our experience in Italy, probably because there was no time to take advantage of it.
Proposal for Barcelona
Barcelona still continues to be a reference point in the academic and research world, at least for the moment. Catalan universities must take advantage of the opportunity to provide leadership in science as we emerge from the pandemic. The experts at our universities are well placed to take advantage of the NextGenerationEU plan, and so help to adapt the environment to the major challenge it faces. It is essential for our scholars to act as pivots around which plans for the recovery and transformation of Barcelona and Catalonia revolve. After more than twenty years working in universities and research, I am confident that scientists are well able to guide the decisions of the administrations. It would be a mistake to leave the design of plans and strategies to politicians alone: politicians must be in the front line, but the science sector must also play a leading role.