The Pandemic Issue

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


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