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
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