The Pandemic Issue

We’re excited to share our newly published GOOD10 magazine about the pandemic, produced in collaboration with leapsmag and the Aspen Institute’s Science and Society Program. In this issue, we explore big-picture ways that science innovation and communication can usher in a more equitable, more progress-oriented, and safer world. We have exclusive interviews with philanthropist Wendy Schmidt, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, and other luminaries.


2 Photos taken by Christophe Maout while in quarantine in Paris, France



Editors’ note:

In the spirit of hope and resilience, we present GOOD10: The Pandemic Issue , in which we explore big-picture ways that science innovation and communication can usher in a more equitable, more progress-oriented, and safer world. This issue is a collaboration among the science outlet leapsmag , the impact and engagement company GOOD, and the Aspen Institute Science & Society Program. The GOOD10 format explores fundamental issues facing humanity through the lenses of ten forces pushing the needle toward progress: PLACES, PHILANTHROPISTS, CELEBRITIES, WHISTLEBLOWERS, COMPANIES, MEDIA, PRODUCTS, POLITICIANS, SCIENTISTS, and ACTIONS. Across these categories, we seek to present unexpected and encouraging paradigms emerging from this historic crisis. Six months after discovery of the novel coronavirus, we are beginning to see hints of what the future may hold. This edition is meant to demonstrate that even—or especially—in the face of a global calamity, creative minds across science and society are working together to overcome our world’s fragility. Our vulnerabilities, both medically and economically, have always existed, but the virus brought them into sharp relief. While it may seem impossible to imagine a sunny future on the other side, we hope the enclosed collection offers a glimpse over seemingly insurmountable obstacles, revealing new horizons ahead.


Aaron F. Mertz , Ph.D. Director Aspen Institute Science & Society Program Kira Peikoff , M.S. Editor-in-Chief leapsmag Gabriel Reilich Editor-in-Chief GOOD


Right Now



55 Lessons Learned About Science Communication Around the World Quarantining Our Way Into Outer Space




An Exclusive Interview with Wendy Schmidt about Science in the Pandemic Era



Neil deGrasse Tyson Wants Celebrities to Promote Scientists



The Science Sleuths Holding Fraudulent Research Accountable

Paradigm Shift



The Biggest Challenge for a COVID-19 Vaccine




Isaac Asimov on the History of Infectious Disease—And How Humanity Learned To Fight Back



Will COVID-19 Pave the Way For DIY Precision Medicine?



Will the Pandemic Propel STEM Experts to Political Power?

A New Future



Would a Broad-Spectrum Antiviral Drug Stop the Pandemic?



Pseudoscience Is Rampant: How Not to Fall for It How COVID-19 Could Usher in a New Age of Collective Drug Discovery



Editing Aaron Mertz Kira Peikoff Gabriel Reilich

Art Direction & Design Tatiana Cárdenas-Mejía

Front & Back Covers Illustration by Leonardo Santamaria

Title typography by Tatiana Cárdenas-Mejía based on Ferrite Core DX by Froyo Tam

Fonts Feritte Core DX Degular ITC Clearface Roboto Mono Roboto Work Sans

Support for leapsmag comes from

Support for the Aspen Institute Science & Society Program comes from

Irma L. and Abram S. Croll Charitable Trust

Rick Stamberger


Writing Damon Brown Amy Odell Kenneth Miller Isaac Asimov Linda Marsa Randy Dotinga

Illustrators who donated their work for the United Nations COVID-19 Creative Response:

Pang Ying Hui Russell Tate Samuel Rodriguez Guilherme Santiago Aashti Miller

Bob Roehr David Cox

Visuals Christophe Maout Tonje Thielsen Pexel Flickr Commons Patrick Wassmann Unsplash Rian Devos Dana Edmunds

For partnership opportunities please contact

Schmidt Ocean Institute Delvinhair Productions Dan Deitch Elizabeth Solaka Michel & Co Photography iStock

Nicholas Law Ailish Beadle Alexis Jamet Ray Domzalski Jr. Máté Orobej Dana Kim







Places: 55 Lessons Learned About Science Communication Around the World

Compiled by Aaron Mertz


We collected over 50 pandemic-generated lessons in science communication from around the world from members of the Aspen Global Congress on Scientific Thinking & Action. These insights offer local experts’ best practices for communicating about a global health crisis with the public in nuanced and regionally specific ways.

= Contributing countries


55 Lessons Learned About Science Communication Around the World


Senegal Is the messenger as important as the message? Pandemics such as COVID-19 and the flood of online misinformation underlie the critical need to elevate the voices of African science leaders. African communities have talented ex- perts they can rely on to access reliable information based on facts, if only the right platforms are provided to them. Not only do we need to share the right information and understand our target audiences, we must pay close attention to those who deliver our messages, when planning any communication strategies. Fara Ndiaye Deputy Executive Director, Speak Up Africa Brazil The first lesson from the current pandemic for science communica- tion in Brazil is that there is no such thing as redundancy. It doesn’t matter how many times one says or explains something—about the importance of social distancing, or the uselessness of chloroquine—there is always someone you didn’t reach the first time, and someone you reached but wasn’t pay- ing attention then. You have to repeat it, over and over again. Another lesson is that it actually works. Sometimes the onslaught of misinformation can make one think that the effort is futile. It isn’t: if you listen carefully, you can find the results—even if only after a lot of repetition. Natália Pasternak Taschner President,

Ukraine Ukraine started quarantine on March 25, 2020 when there were only 10 cases of COVID-19. And already on May 22 the quarantine was weakened and economic recovery began. Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko’s address “Don’t wander the streets” worked well in the capital, the most populated city. We also managed to develop our own PCR tests within two weeks. I managed to provide comments on the origins of the new strain of coronavirus to the leaders of public opinion and it helped to prevent conspiracy theories and to stop the panic. Aspen Institute Kyiv organized a series of online events and activities to inform society about the pandemic, to help with medical supplies, and to assist the needy. In general, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed all the shortcomings and bottlenecks of the country’s medical sphere. The positive outcome is that everybody learned about PCR and realized how important good science is for society. Nataliya Shulga CEO, Ukrainian Science Club New Zealand This pandemic has highlighted how a scientific issue connects every discipline and when those from seemingly different camps work collaboratively and innovatively, a powerful alchemy can result. I think New Zealand’s response to COVID-19 has shown what is pos- sible when good science and good communi- cation come together. We have had extraor- dinary leadership in this country that not only invests in science, but invests equally in the public’s understanding of it. NZ citizens were brought into the process of it every single day through effective storytelling across multiple platforms. Walls between science and society melted away, and no one had to question the reasons behind what we were being asked to do to protect ourselves and each other be- cause the science was embedded in a crystal clear story. And at the heart of that story is the message to trust in science like your life depends on it—because it does. Gianna Savoie Director of Filmmaking, Center for Science Communication, University of Otago

Australia Australia has … so far … come through the coronavirus pandemic without suffering the appalling figures seen elsewhere: Australia’s death rate per million currently stands at 4, compared with 300 deaths per million in the U.S.A.; 542 in the UK; and a horrifying 800+ in Belgium. Australia is not alone in achieving such relatively low figures, but in Australia it does seem to be thanks to a fairly (but not perfect) early intervention to stop infections through border controls and lockdowns, sup- ported by a largely cooperative public. While early communication efforts by governments were marked by contra- dictions and confusion, one success has been the national broadcaster, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, in spreading factual information through a range of media platforms. In particular are the activities of Norman Swan, pre- senter of ABC Radio National’s Health Report, who has become a key voice of coronavirus information. His daily CoronaCast podcast quickly became one of the most downloaded science podcasts around the world, and though presentations were not without dire predictions, his softly-spoken manner generally gave science communication a voice that seemed sincere and proved reliable. Tim Mendham

Executive Officer, Australian Skeptics

Israel There are two salient features of the corona-related fake news in Israel: they give the reader meaning and hope. I think that if we talk more about the interface between science and moral values, we might be able to fill in the needs currently filled with prophetic, pseudo-medical, and conspiracy mes- sages. When communicating science, a curve is not just a curve; it is also a story about solidarity.

Instituto Questão de Ciência (Question of Science Institute) Carlos Orsi Editor-in-Chief, Questão de Ciência ( Question of Science ) Magazine

Ayelet Baram-Tsabari Associate Professor,

Faculty of Education in Science and Technology, Technion – Israel Institute of Technology

Colombia The pandemic has exposed the strengths and weaknesses of journalism, but it is also teaching, in real time, how to do good scientific journal- ism. In Colombia we have good results with the strengthening of our collaborative networks and working with colleagues from other countries and other media. We listen to science and give it a voice in the media. We are also looking at infor- mation from different angles. But we are left with challenges: journalists must be trained in scientific journalism, scientific journalism needs to be across all journalistic areas, and we need to learn to rigor- ously fact-check. Ximena Serrano Gil President, Asociación Colombiana de Periodismo Científico (Colombian Association of Science Journalists)

Portugal COMCEPT tries to engage with the public in person and via digital social net- works. In the week before the lockdown we organized a public meeting, some style of “Skeptics in the Pub,” about the new coronavirus. The speaker was the president of a medical association and presented to the public the best data available at the moment regarding SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19. During the lock- down, we used social media to promote reliable information about the disease, shared official data from the Government, asked the public to participate in online academic studies, and debunked conspiracy theories. João Lourenço Monteiro Vice President, COMCEPT: Comunidade Céptica Portuguesa (Portuguese Skeptical Community)


Nigeria COVID-19 has exposed the need to diversify the approaches and languages used to communicate science. In Science Communication Hub Nigeria and African Science Literacy Network, our scientists and fellows are using local languages to debunk science misconceptions and disinformation about COVID-19 through written articles, myth busters, and weekly webinars streamed live on Facebook and YouTube. In addition to disseminating good science, this approach has made it easier for us to understand how local communities view science and scientists, which in turn enables us to deliver content appropriate to these communities. Mahmoud Bukar Maina Founder, Science Communication Hub Nigeria

India The clamp downs, the lock downs, the prayers were all tried Lamps were lit, plates banged, and flowers were showered from skies Millions were spent, sugar pills were dispensed, grandmas soups concocted Herbs were boiled and breathing taught Alas nothing worked, they all came to naught Millions walked, hundreds died. All nation builders migrating to home villages The rulers were deaf, the nation was blind to one of the longest shut downs of its kind! But nothing worked, neither the herbs nor the sugar pills or the urine of the mother cow! 1,300 million Indians abandoned to their fate now! Narendra Nayak President, Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations U.K. / China COVID-19 has brought the public to witness first-hand science-in-the-making in a multi-centred world and allowed the scientific community to participate in real-time sense-making with various publics on risks and responsibilities. To borrow the term from Silvio Funtowicz, COVID-19 has ushered everyone into an era of “post-normal” science commu- nication, in which the contents being communicated are contingent, objectives conflictual, outreach global, consequenc- es personal, and (re)actions urgent. This further highlights the need to co-develop new approaches of transnational scientific dialogue in and with China, where public engagement is still at a nascent stage. Joy Yueyue Zhang Senior Lecturer in Sociology, School of Social Policy, Sociology, and Social Research, University of Kent Schiffmann, a 17-year-old high school student in Seattle, Washington, who took it upon himself to create a well-designed and up-to-do-date website for tracking COVID-19 infec- tions and deaths from around the world. Remember when the outbreak first happened and no one could get reliable information in one place? This kid—who had been coding since he was a child—created a massive data-scraping program that allowed a centralized location for this crucial info. And it’s gotten millions of views. Now that’s science communication! Lee McIntyre Research Fellow, U.S.A. I’m inspired by the work of Avi

Canada Science communication is always challenging but even more so in the COVID-19 era since so much about the disease is unknown. Because of my media presence and the mandate of our Office to “demystify science for the public,” I am bombarded by questions from morning to night. Unfortunately, the answers almost always have to be qualified with “ifs,” “buts,” and “maybes,” which is not very satisfying. I think I can confidently say that self pleasur- ing will not reduce the chance of contracting COVID-19 as some bloggers claim, and I can also assure people that hanging laundry on a clothesline is safe and advise them that put- ting the newspaper in the oven to disinfect it is a bad idea. But when questions arise about handling mail or groceries, or the effectiveness of masks, the uncertainties creep in. Then there is the issue of the numerous conspiracy theories ranging from Bill Gates’s supposed plan to decimate the population to the disease being caused by 5G antennae. This puts us in a position of having to prove a negative, which is very difficult to do. My usual approach is to ask proponents questions about the number of conspirators that would have to be involved, their possible motives and the source of the information. Some- times if you give them the rope they will hang themselves. Joe Schwarcz Director, Office for Science and Society, McGill University Cameroon The pandemic has recalled the vital role of science communication in times of crisis. Africa in general and Cameroon in particular have been spared for the moment from the catastrophe so feared by the whole world. This stems from the good collaboration among media, decision makers, and researchers who have positively influenced the apprehension of the threats by the general public as well as their behavior, which is a determining factor for the efficiency of the response. Stéphane Kenmoe Scientist, Science communicator, and television personality

Czech Republic It is not a secret in the world of science communication that, for many, accepting the facts has little to do with facts themselves. This quiet truth has been brought out into the spotlight even more so now during the pandemic. Many of us received the lesson that we must com- municate with the human first before we try communicating the science to them. Claire Klingenberg President, European Council of Skeptical Organizations (ECSO) U.S.A. / Mexico The pandemic has united science communicators more than ever. It has spurred many fruitful collaborations, such as the COVID-19 Virtual Forum organized by the Mexican Network of Science Journalists with all the science communication associations in Latin America and Spain. In Mexico and the U.S., we are all fighting misinforma- tion while keeping up to date with the freshest science, policies, and society’s response. This is the time to show why science journalism is important by stepping up to the plate. Rodrigo Pérez Ortega Founding Member, Switzerland Switzerland has managed to flatten the curve substantially and avoid a collapse of the public health system. Now that the country is slowly opening up again, the public discourse increasingly revolves around the question of “what was all this fuss about, when nothing happened?!” We have a term for this frustrating phenomenon: Pandemic Paradox. The successful management of outbreaks can lead to a decrease in public trust in communicators based on the perception that they were overreacting. However, we are aware of it and its origins are well studied, which gives us an assortment of tools to combat it. Angela Bearth Research Scientist, Consumer Behavior, Department of Health Sciences and Technology, ETH Zürich Mexican Network of Science Journalists

Center for Philosophy and History of Science, Boston University


55 Lessons Learned About Science Communication Around the World


Syria In Syria, the COVID-19 situation is messy and unclear and lacks

Argentina / Brazil Science communication and journalism have been reinvented in South America. More people are giving their time to contribute to science communication and are also actively engaged in teaching society how to be fact-checkers. Science popularization was reborn in small movements that spread checked news that “goes viral” through WhatsApp messages where, until then, Fake News had a clear ground. Low-cost podcasts boomed, shared sometimes even in the old way, through car loudspeakers in the street. Journalists, science communicators, and researchers became more active in professional networks. They also abandoned the practice of competing against each other, creating new ways to collaborate. Now, they share hard-to-access data through virtual meetings, pre-prints, or private communication, offering experts’ contacts and valuable advice. This is the new normal. Roxana Tabakman Health Writer and Science Journalist,

transparency. From one side, official numbers show only 109 cases and four deaths since the outbreak; on the other side, these numbers are widely criti- cized by experts as well as by the pub- lic because of low testing and lack of official communication. The nine-year-long war has hugely destroyed the medical infrastructure in Syria and pushed the majority of med- ical staff to leave the country. Despite these facts, the country went into only a partial lockdown and tried to mini- mize interactions among its population with shy measures. The big absence in these measures was indeed “communication.” None or only a few official institutions tried to keep the population updated about the evolution of the disease inside the country. This factor pushed many civil society organizations to take over, covering topics such as self-protection, molecular biology, and pharmaceutical updates. Moreover these initiatives, mainly via Facebook, fought against misleading information such as con- spiracy theories and unethical drug use. In the near future, international organizations should learn from the Syrian example and pay more attention to the impact of these volunteer-based organizations that could replace official institutions for science communication during wartime. Mouhannad Malek Founder and Chairman, Syrian Researchers Spain From the skeptical movement, we no- ticed that at first almost everybody was very cautious, and few dared to screw it up with loose nonsense. But right away, some started placing the blame on their favorite enemy: Trump on China, China on Trump, or electromagnetic or 5G sensitivity—allied to the anti-vac- cination, flat-earth, and Germanic New Medicine leagues. And then there are the crazy remedies pulled out of a hat. Juan A. Rodríguez Secretary, ARP–Sociedad para el Avance del Pensamiento Crítico (Society for the Advancement of Critical Thinking); Editor, El Escéptico ( The Skeptic ) magazine

Red Argentina de Periodismo Científico (RADPC) (Argentinian Network of Science Journalism); Rede Brasileira de Jornalistas e Comunicadores de Ciência (RedeComCiência) (Brazilian Network of Science Journalists and Communicators )

Japan In Japan, the lack of outreach from scientists and science communicators during the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident following the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011 led to a growing distrust of science pro- fessionals. In this year’s COVID-19 pandemic, many scientists are disseminating informa- tion online, and science communicators at research institutions are actively providing learning tools for children who are on standby at home. While politicians have yet to learn the importance of science communication, the public is learning how to seek out the information they need. Masataka Watanabe President, Japanese Association for Science Communication Jordan In these unprecedented times, building the case for science and research is of utmost priority. Therefore, at Phi Science Institute in Jordan, we aim to handle this responsibility very seriously on the regional and global levels by providing full coverage of the latest trusted scientific news in Arabic for the Arab world; turning our Research and Innovation Summit 2020 fully virtual to connect youth and experts for science from all across the region and en- able them to work on joint research projects at this hard but unique time; and working with our artificial intelligence lab on healthcare A.I. products related to COVID-19. Safa Khalaf Community Outreach Officer, Phi Science Institute

Romania Governments all over the world have realized the importance of good com- munication with the public. And they have also realized the impact that false news and misinformation can have on their efforts. I work in promot- ing vaccination, and until now, antivac- cine ideas were considered fringe and limited. The pandemic has shown that anyone can start to become a source of misinformation, and we need to combat misinformation quickly and efficiently. This lesson, hopefully, will not be forgotten. Ovidiu Covaciu Administrator, Vaccinuri si Vaccinare (Vaccines and Vaccinations); Founder, Coaliția România Sănătoasă (Romania Healthy Coalition); Producer, Sceptici în România (Skeptics in Romania) U.S.A. Initial response to the outbreak in the U.S. was striking for the high degree of support for and compliance with restrictions on public activity. Scientists were centerstage in their role advising government leaders. But U.S. opinion has been shifting. There are now growing partisan divisions over the risk COVID-19 poses to public health as well as over social distancing measures aimed at slowing the spread of the disease. And, unlike years past, a partisan imprint now extends to public confidence in medical scientists to act in the public interest. Cary Funk Director, Science and Society Research, Pew Research Center


Russia Just a year ago, we launched a specialty in communication in medicine and biotechnology in our SciComm M.Sc. program. It’s been a long time coming! Like never before, we are facing the fact that science communication matters, and thelack of information only increases fears and frustrations. Daria Denisova Director,

Pakistan Pakistan is actively combating the COVID-19 pandemic by effective lock- downs. People are well aware of mask and sanitizer usage and are maintaining social distancing. Treatment of those affected is being provided by government hospitals. Qaiser Majeed Malik Chairman, Pakistan Science Foundation Turkey Despite strong faith in fatalism in Turkish society, trust and confidence in sciences have unexpectedly increased since the outbreak of COVID-19. Discussion programs on TV give their prime times to scientists more than governmental authorities. The Ministry of Health got more credit than any other political actors because of its daily updates on prevention arrangements. However, social media is more useful to share information about people’s corona experiences in their living environments. Personal impressions and experiences are widely circulated during the outbreak, including health conditions and daily life routines under the “stay at home” conditions. Scientific content about COVID-19 is also heavily distributed, and governmental practices are called into question by social media users frequently. Individuals become more “science citizens” both by demanding scientific information from diverse and trustworthy sources and also by producing their own content. Çiler Dursun Professor, Faculty of Communication, Ankara University, Scientific Coordinator, Genovate

Netherlands In the early phase of the pandemic in the Netherlands, the government opted for a moderately strict lockdown and suggest- ed that in this way the virus that was still present would lead to herd immunity. There was massive outrage because the public understood that civilians were being sacrificed for the creation of this herd immunity. When the government subsequently explained that the creation of herd immunity was not the goal of its policy but a welcome side effect, the unrest subsided. Cees Renckens Chair, Germany The brief guide on Proper Criticism by psychology professor Ray Hyman has been crucial for effective science com- munication, where he explains essential points, such as not going beyond your level of competence and using the prin- ciple of charity. Beyond presenting the facts and the science, which are often later forgotten by the audience, people remember the messenger. We have learned that coming across as compas- sionate, credible and trustworthy gives the message a far more significant and lasting impact. Amardeo Sarma Chair, Gesellschaft zur wissenschaftlichen Untersuchung von Parawissenschaften (Society for the Scientific Investigation of Parasciences) Malaysia A lesson I learned during the pandemic as a science communicator: it takes a crisis for the public to heed science and see it as a solution provider. Fol- lowers on my Facebook page increased by more than 2,000; subscription to my newspaper, The Petri Dish, increased among the public; and more media interviews. How can we sustain this appetite for science? Highlight the WHY more than the HOW and WHAT. Mahaletchumy Arujanan Executive Director, Malaysian Biotechnology Information Centre (MABIC)

Science Communication and Outreach Office, ITMO University

South Africa Novel ways of sharing the science of COVID-19 with children: In South Africa (and many other countries) scientists have partnered with authors and illus- trators to create a range of storybooks, comics, and infographics (in many indigenous languages) to help children understand the pandemic. The pandemic is also an infodemic: As much as there is a need (and demand) for scientific expertise, misinforma- tion may also flourish when people are scared and uncertain. Combating misinformation is a complex task. It is important to understand the reasons why rumours and false claims spread, and to be thoughtful and respectful when trying to correct them. Here is some advice. Marina Joubert Senior Researcher,

Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology (CREST), Stellenbosch University

U.K. As a researcher of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM), I should have expect- ed it—but when it did arrive, it came as a surprise nonetheless. I am talking about the number of snake-oil salesmen putting their ugly heads above the parapet. After the pandemic had been declared, it took just days for the pro- motion of corona quackery to start: acupuncture, chiropractic, herbal tinctures, homeopathic remedies, colloidal silver, essential oils, dietary supplements, and many more. The entire panopticum of SCAM was on display. This was when I decided to relentlessly name and shame the villains on my blog (edzardernst. com). Today, I must have posted over 40 articles about the “corona snake- oil brigade.” The second surprise was positive, I am glad to say. The amount of support I received was unprecedented. Hundreds of comments were posted by people who agreed that now it was more important than ever to disclose this quackery, point out what harm it does, and prevent the public from falling for it (at one stage, my humble blog was even quoted by U.S.A. Today). Many friends and colleagues joined in and wrote about SCAM merchants attempting to make a fast buck by misleading the public. But the public was far less gullible than the charlatans had hoped. My impression is that the snake-oil craze even provided a significant boost for critical thinking. The pandemic is doing untold, tragic damage, but it has also helps to explain to consumers how crucially important real science is and how devastatingly dangerous pseudoscience can be. Edzard Ernst

Vereniging tegen de Kwaksalverij (Dutch Society Against Quackery)

Emeritus Professor, University of Exeter


55 Lessons Learned Around the World from Combating the Pandemic


Rwanda At the University of Global Health Equity (UGHE), we have worked to fur- ther our educational mission during this unprecedented challenge of COVID-19, a pandemic that reminds us of the crit- ical importance of our mission. With our campus located in the rural north of Rwanda, it was our priority to not only continue to provide quality education— which has transitioned to fully virtual learning—but also to take extensive precautions to protect our students, staff, faculty, and the surrounding community from the virus. Given the toll of this virus and the drastic change in social norms it has created, we are conducting not only weekly physical screenings but also mental health screenings. We are grateful to report that all from our UGHE community have remained in strong health. We are grateful to keep contributing to the fight for global health equity during a time such as this.

U.S.A. I practice Stoic philosophy and have been wondering what the Stoics might have to say about how to react to a pandemic. It struck me that our current situation is somewhat analogous to something many in the ancient world had to experience: exile. When someone is in exile, their life is very different, of lower quality, and far more constrained, than what they are used to. Just like during self-isolation or lockdown in a pandemic. So what did the Stoics do when in exile? They taught philosophy to others, like Musonius Rufus, a famous first-century teacher. And they wrote letters of consolation to their loved ones, as Seneca, also in the first century, did to his mother Helvia. In that letter, Seneca says that Fortune comes and goes, but what remains constant, and independent of Fortune, is our character, our determination to always be the best human beings we can be. Indeed, it is in times of difficulties and setbacks that we have an opportunity to shine. As he puts it, everyone is a good pilot when the sea is calm. It’s only in the midst of a storm that we see who is truly skilled. So let’s think of the current storm as an opportunity to improve our proficiency at navigating life. Massimo Pigliucci Professor of Philosophy, City College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York

Philippines Here in the Philippines, government agencies regularly post pandemic-re- lated visual aids through social media in order to prove a point (e.g., “The curve is flattening,” “We have more or fewer cases”), except the visual aids are unintuitive, if not altogether cherry-picked: Trend lines are traced haphazardly, bar charts are not drawn to scale, and government spokesper- sons almost literally tell people what to believe. Instead of just mocking these visual aids, younger data scientists and statisticians have taken to social media to talk about how to interpret data and why some visual aids are badly made. These scientists use these social media posts as a starting point to help people think critically rather than accept knowledge wholesale, which fits well with how the practice of science is about questioning, critical thinking, and healthy skepticism. Inez Ponce de Leon Assistant Professor, Department of Communication, Ateneo de Manila University • Supporting online entertainment platforms by the Ministry of Information of Communications and Technology in cooperation with other ministries, including the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance and the Cultural Heritage Organization, to run virtual museum tour platforms, hold online music concerts, etc.; and • Launching the #BeScientific cam- paign (in Persian) as a collaboration between the UNESCO Chair on Pop- ularization of Science at the National Research Institute for Science Policy (NRISP) and the Iranian Association for the Popularization of Science, with the aims to enlighten public opinion and fight pseudo-science and fake news related to COVID-19. Akram Ghadimi Associate Professor, Department of Popularization of Science, National Research Institute for Science Policy Iran Iran was one of the first countries to be involved in the crisis.Widespread international sanctions have restricted the capability to control the virus. In response to the pandemic, scientific institutions, non-governmental orga- nizations, and government agencies have facilitated the transition from this crisis by: • Closing religious places (e.g., shrines, mosques) and pivoting their activities, in some cases as a temporary produc- tion workshops for masks and medical equipment; • Expanding the penetration rate of state and free internet throughout the country; • Increasing the presence of scientists in the mass media to raise pub- lic awareness and help control the disease;

Agnes Binagwaho Vice Chancellor, University of Global Health Equity; former Minister of Health

U.S.A. The pandemic has revealed that now more than ever, science communication cannot prevail until nations and states dismantle the underlying structural injus- tices that erode trust in science. For instance, the exploitation of racial minori- ties’ justified distrust of the medical establishment by anti-vaccine groups has become a matter of growing concern—from the 2017 Minnesota measles outbreak after activists convinced Somali-American immigrants that vaccines cause autism to the growing present-day opposition to a COVID-19 vaccine. Still, there is hope if only those who disseminate science-based information understand that the anti-vaccine movement, and similar movements that sit at the crossroads of science and society, have never been fundamentally about evidence. It’s about whom to trust. Kavin Senapathy Science, health, and parenting writer; Member, American Society of Journalists and Authors; Contributing Editor,

Indonesia Although the clerics all agreed that public prayer should be banned to slow the spread of the disease, many Indo- nesian Muslims clogged the mosque during Ramadan and Eid, complete- ly ignoring the health and religious authorities. Some Indonesian Muslims even strongly believe that somehow the Jewish and the Chinese are the mas- terminds of the pandemic—a bizarre claim that Muhammadiyah, one of the largest Muslim organizations, is trying hard to debunk. Conspiracy-theory believers are still not completely con- vinced by counter-arguments coming from religious authorities. Rizqy Amelia Zein Assistant Professor, Department of Personality

Morocco Our communication efforts have included we- binars on the environment, climate change, and inter-linkages with the pandemic, for example effects of coronavirus on biodiversity, how COVID-19 has benefitted climate, and the green economic recovery from COVID-19. Our mem- bers have also written opinion articles pub- lished in journals and media in more than ten Arab countries. These activities have attracted the attention of communities, raised awareness as the scientific material was communicated in the Arabic language, and significantly un- leashed the potential of our members. Hajar Khamlichi President and Co-Founder, Mediterranean Youth Climate Network; Board Member, Moroccan Alliance for Climate and Sustainable Development

and Social Psychology, Universitas Airlangga


U.S.A. / Colombia Seven years ago, I wrote a book in Spanish called Un enemigo invisible / An Invisible Enemy . This science and adventure novel for young adults is read in several schools throughout Colombia. The plot deals with a deadly virus that gets into Miami via a howler monkey brought from Guyana in a ship- ment of wild monkeys for lab research. The monkey is a reservoir (whose origi- nal host is a bat) of the (fictitious) virus Canzanboria, which infects one of the young main characters. The book thus becomes a race to find out what this virus is, where it comes from, how to get a vaccine, and how to stop it—like what is happening now. The exciting part is that, because of the pandemic, several schools are hosting videoconferences where I can talk to kids about the book and my behind-the-scenes work with real-life virus hunters—research I did in order to write the novel. These kids are hugely interested and love my explanations about the evolution of viruses, the roles they play in our life, and the fact that were it not for a virus, none of us mammals would exist. This pandemic has opened a window for me to take the scientific process to young minds in often inaccessible places in Colombia, as well as in China (the book was translated into Manda- rin). I think reaching young people is the way to achieve a well-educated and interested society that will eventually grow up to support science in a meaningful way.

Nepal In order to control the rate of proliferation of COVID-19, social distancing has been a globally accepted effective method. In order to maintain such distanc- ing and yet continue our business as usual, information and communication technology available today is very much useful. Also, mobile technology has been easily accessible even to people living in poverty in Nepal. Therefore, we can take the widespread use of internet platforms such as Skype, Facebook, Zoom, MS Teams, Voov, WhatsApp, Kakao, Viber, WeChat, etc. for any kind of communication including for science teaching, seminars, conferences, meetings, and discussions. Sunil Babu Shrestha Vice-Chancellor, Nepal Academy of Science and Technology (NAST)

Guatemala / U.S.A. At the Cornell Alliance for Science, we are currently highlighting how science is being used to fight COVID-19 and dispelling myths through our online platform. In Guatemala, there have been different spaces created for “science innova- tion” to address the challenges this pandemic brings with communication strategies that include hashtags such as #nuestrascienciarespone (our science has answers) and #cienciaGTe- naccion [GT (Guatemala) science in action]. However, there is also a lot of misinformation spread through the many social media platforms used in the country. We believe we can amplify projects that bring attention to how science is pivotal in a crisis and, at the same time, dispel misin- formation by circulating fact-checked pieces in Spanish for our Central American audiences. Pablo Ivan Orozco Policy Affairs Associate, Cornell Alliance for Science most confusing of all has been the unexpected ideological struggle on the fundamentals of medicine. While evidence-based medicine was demonstrating its power, a discourse combining postmodernism and medie- val thinking was developing “against the method,” celebrating “common sense” medicine as opposed to medicine pre- sented as big data and big pharma. France found itself, with its “Marseille Protocol” at the center of this tornado whose effects were felt as far as the U.S.A.–Brazil axis. At the heart of the turmoil, the French Association for Scientific Information has endeavoured to communicate daily on its public website and its internal forum the France During this pandemic, perhaps reliable sources of information enabling everyone to untangle scientific facts from unfounded rumours, to under- stand where the established knowledge is and where the uncertainties lie, and to remind people that medicine is not a game of poker.

Sudan When it comes to disseminating scientific information, social media can do more harm than good in a time of crisis, due to the spread of inaccurate scientific information. In Sudan, a country that is fighting the spread of COVID-19 with little to almost no resources, WhatsApp, as usual, became the main source of news about the virus for the majority of internet users. Sudanese people’s phones are flooded with misinformation, including unverified home remedies (the most viral one was drinking red tea before sunrise), fake research findings that the virus cannot survive the country’s climate, and conspiracy theories claiming that the virus is a lie made up by the government to close down mosques and stop people from practicing their religion freely. All this misinformation has led to people not following recommended policies, such as non-essential travel and social distancing. In fact, it has made some people go as far as protesting in huge numbers against the government’s decision to close down the borders. In areas where access to smart- phones is limited, the few people who do have smartphones end up being the main source of information for the rest. The low level of tech literacy in many de- veloping countries, especially among elderly communities, makes people less likely to ver- ify sources. With the continuous increase of COVID-19 cases, misinformation will pose an even more dangerous threat for many coun- tries. Some, like Qatar and Saudi Arabia, have criminalized its spread, but implementing such strict policies isn’t always possible. This is why I believe youth- and community-led initiatives in countries like Sudan can take a leading role in raising awareness about the dangers of misinformation. People here have little trust in government but are welcoming of youth work. Lina Yassin Programme Manager, Climate Tracker, MENA (Middle East and North Africa)

Ángela Posada-Swafford Science, environment, and exploration journalist, lecturer, moderator, and book author; Board Member, Colombian Association of Science Journalists

Ghana Shortly after the first case was re- ported, various professional science societies and associations came together to form a COVID response team. The purpose was simple: to coordinate availability of scientists for media engagements. It worked well and continues to do so, making sure that people remain informed based on accurate science. It has been a lesson on coming together and communicating science collaboratively. Thomas Tagoe Lecturer,

Physiology and Pharmacology, University of Ghana;

Co-Founder, GhScientific

Michel Naud Director and Former President,

Association Française pour l’Information Scientifique (French Association for Scientific Information)


55 Lessons Learned About Science Communication Around the World


Serbia During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Center for the Promotion of Science was active in raising citizens’ awareness of the challenges they faced. Very early on, at the end of March, the Serbian translation of the extensive database was published on the Center’s portal, enabling citizens to find out what is really behind the often confusing statistics that the media conveyed to the public in a clumsy and sometimes distorted manner. In early June, a new issue of the Center’s popular science magazine Elementi was released. In a special segment containing six articles accompanied by appropriate visual storytelling, eminent physicians, philosophers, data scientists, science journalists, and graphic designers ad- dressed some important topics related to the pandemic, such as the evolution of SARS-CoV-2, data modeling, mental health of physicians and citizens, and the moral challenges with which deci- sion-makers were faced. Ivan Umelji

Russia The experience of the South Korean church spreading coronavirus has not taught us—in Russia—anything. There have been large masses of people standing in line in the Kazan Cathedral to kiss the remains of a dead saint. A number of Russian Orthodox priests have commented that you cannot catch a virus in church. The head of church public communications has stated that people should avoid massive gatherings—but religious gatherings are an exception. In the Vatican, Pope Francis was a welcome contrast, giving Easter mass behind closed doors and praying in an empty St. Peter’s Square, showing by example the distancing and isolation to which we must adhere in order to save lives. Unfortunately, the Russian Orthodox church does not have such concerns for the people.

Alexander Panchin Senior Researcher Institute for Information Transmission Problems (Kharkevich Institute) Member Commission on Pseudoscience and Research Fraud Russian Academy of Sciences

India The clamp downs, the lock downs, the prayers were all tried Lamps were lit, plates banged, and flowers were showered from skies Millions were spent, sugar pills were dispensed, grandmas soups concocted Herbs were boiled and breathing taught Alas nothing worked, they all came to naught Millions walked, hundreds died. All nation builders migrating to home villages The rulers were deaf, the nation was blind To one of the longest shut downs of its kind! But nothing worked, neither the herbs nor the sugar pills or the urine of the mother cow! 1,300 million Indians abandoned to their fate now! Narendra Nayak President, Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations

Head of the Department for Publishing and Media Production, Centar za Promociju Nauke (Center for the Promotion

of Science) Marko Krstić Acting Director,

Centar za Promociju Nauke (Center for the Promotion of Science)

U.S.A. / U.K. At Annual Reviews, we removed access control to all of our content—everything that we have published in the past 88 years—on March 13, 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Compared to April 2019, usage of the content in April 2020 increased more than threefold (to 3.1 million downloads worldwide). It was not just our virology and public-health related content that was read more—every field from astronomy to vision science saw a substantial uptick. Removing barriers to access reveals the breadth interest in science for the public good: in the U.S., 28 different city governments, 18 state governments, the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Senate, and the U.S. House of Representatives all recorded usage, as did parliaments in scores of other countries. Strikingly, access from less wealthy nations rose dramatically; for example, Morocco by 1,403 per- cent (from 229 downloads in April 201 to 3,444 in April 2020), Sri Lanka by 1,523 percent (260 in April 2019 to 4,545 in April 2020), and Ecuador by 1,033 percent (273 in April 2019 to 3,094 in April 2020). This usage re-emphasizes the value of democratizing access to science across all disciplines (not just COVID-19) and parts of the world. While the great majority appreciate their personal and public duty to reduce the chance of infection, in the face of weeks of isolation and economic hardship, many people experience angst, anger, and disbelief. Using science to help people understand the dissonances that they were experiencing, and the necessity of their sacrifice, we developed a free service called Pandemic Life as a way to relate the body of social science research to the COVID-19 pandemic. Several times a week, articles that offer insights into such matters as the benefits of social norms, how to guide children’s development, dealing with isolation, and the nature of happiness are covered on social media and in a short news story, and the relevant review article is made available for a deeper dive. This evolved into a series of online conversations called Pandemic Live, during which some of the world’s foremost researchers discuss and answer questions on aspects of the pandemic. Directly connecting the public with researchers in ways that go beyond sound bites and political posturing provides a powerful way to commu- nicate reliable science insights into health, social, and economic issues in an age of misinformation. Richard Gallagher President & Editor-in-Chief, Annual Reviews, Publisher, Knowable Magazine

U.S.A. Vaccination has fallen dramatically in the U.S. since the World Health Organization declared a pandemic. One proposal is to use gain-framed mes- sages. This idea builds on insights from prospect theory, which was developed by Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman. The theory suggests that prevention and treatment behaviors are motivated better by messages with a gain than a loss frame. As applied to our current crisis, the idea is to focus on the benefits of vaccination and on doctors’ offices as being safe places. Many of us know more about what our grocery store is doing to keep us safe than what our doctor is doing. Proactively addressing this can help get vaccination back on track.

Noel Brewer Professor, Department of Health Behavior, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill


Ethiopia In Ethiopia, there are difficulties with governments, stakeholders, and the biomedical community regarding how media should further COVID-19 edu- cation and prevention. On March 27, 2020, the Ethiopian Ministry of Health and Ministry of Technology Innovation announced that Ethiopia made signif- icant progress toward development of a cure for the virus: “In collaboration with Ethiopian traditional doctors and modern science research and clinical doctors, we are exploiting our indig- enous and traditional knowledge and shaping it into modern science proce- dures to prepare a cure for COVID-19. The medicine has potential to prevent the virus, is non-poisonous, and is promising.” Following this announce- ment, many maverick and dissident scientists opposed the statement and said it was premature to make an an- nouncement before a clinical trial was started and that it distracts people’s attitudes from vigilance and alertness against the pandemic and politicizes the situation. The majority of Ethiopian people agree: a poll conducted through the messaging platform Telegram found that 71% of people said it was incorrect to make such an announcement before a clinical trial. Tenaw Terefe Italy As fake news and conspiracy theories about the coronavirus piled up every single day during lockdown, I found myself, as many other science popular- izers here in Italy did, with an urge to share—with those following us on social media—analysis, critical thinking skills, and tools to overcome the craze and better understand what was happening. Day after day, I noticed a closer bond developing with more and more people. They were not only asking the “expert” for information or insights in clearing up some new absurd claim, but they were also looking for some kind and reassuring words from someone they now perceived as a calm and rational friend, someone who could take even the wildest fears back down to earth. Assistant Professor, Faculty of Journalism and Communication, Addis Ababa University Eventually, as things started to get a lit- tle easier and those who could returned to their jobs, crazier claims lost their grip, but the bond of trust between us, pop science talkers, and our audience, not only is still there, but has grown stronger. And it looks like a lot of good and promising things can come out of this. Massimo Polidoro Executive Director, Comitato Italiano per il Controllo delle Affermazioni sul paranormale (Italian Com- mittee for the Investigation of Claims on the Paranormal)

Saudi Arabia The infodemic we’re currently seeing alerted me to a crucial point: the correct, reliable, and verified scientific information and evidence is widely available to all those who seek it. In our digital age, the root cause of ignorance cannot be limited to only knowledge scarcity. A century ago, illiteracy was prevalent in the majority of the global population, and knowl- edge was only available to a small group of society. All of that has changed, but ignorance still prevails. The root causes must be deeper and broader. I reckon that this particular ignorance is rooted in the wrong understanding of the scientific methodology process (making an observation, formalizing a hypothesis, exper- imenting, gathering data, analyzing it, and building a theory). The overwhelming majority of conspiracy theorists’ arguments are based on a misconception of one of these basic prin- ciples, whether by confusing hypothesis for a theory, or lack of familiarity with methods of constructing a solid experiment, or ways of examining data and evidence, or erroneous analysis of experiments’ results outside their scientific context. Assuming the validity of this observation, the answer to all the ongoing “scientific” con- troversies won’t be by discussing each issue separately, but by referring back to the basics of the scientific methodology, and determining the cognitive origins of this collective fault and reforming it. Unfortunately, schools do not pay as much attention to the methodology as it deserves, but consider it as another lesson that must be finished to complete the curriculum. This has contributed to the emergence of many strange beliefs in our society without the slightest evidence or collective scrutiny. It is our role as science communicators to bring back the central role of the scientific methodology and reeducate the public about its importance and applications in our daily lives. Faris Bukhamsin CEO, Scientific Saudi

U.S.A. / India Calling out scientific misinforma- tion explicitly is critical for effective science communication. This can be an arduous task since misinformation can be generated rapidly (and at low cost!) through internet platforms. A group of scientists from top research institutes in India (the Tata Institute for Fundamental Research, Mumbai and the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore) have set up a website with “Hoax Bust- ers” that contains simple infographics explicitly calling out misinformation circulating in social media. This is a critical tool for science communication in a country like India where scientific literacy remains low but technology access has increased significantly (over 500 million smartphone users), leading to an explosion in the circulation of misinformation. Abhilash Mishra Director, Kevin Xu Initiative

on Science, Technology, and Global Development, University of Chicago

Kenya The Kenyan Government has been consistent in providing status updates with three key messages, while keeping communication short and simple: 1. Wash hands regularly with soap and sanitize often,

2. Social distancing, and

3. Wear face masks.

One other lesson is use of spokesper- sons trusted by communities such as faith-based leaders and local adminis- tration (not as widely, but at least this is a positive). Margaret Karembu Director,

International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) AfriCenter

Chad This pandemic has shown us that we have an intimate relationship with nature and that there is an urgent need to enhance biodiversity protection. Biodiver- sity is a protection against the development of pandemics, and nature is our pharmacy and provides the molecules needed for both modern and traditional knowledge. Indigenous peoples have known this for centuries, living in harmony with nature, and advocating for a paradigm shift in our relationship to the envi- ronment. My hope is that this crisis will be a wake-up call for all of us. COVID-19 has demonstrated that politicians and business leaders are lost without science, and that listening to scientists can save lives. Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim Coordinator,

Association des Femmes Peules Autochtones du Tchad (AFPAT) (Association of Peul Women and Autochthonous Peoples of Chad)


55 Lessons Learned About Science Communication Around the World


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