The Pandemic Issue

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


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