The COVID-19 pandemic is a major global health challenge. It has exerted significant human losses on the world. By February 5th, 2021, there were about 104 million cases and 2.27 million deaths worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation. The impacts of the pandemic also transcends health, creating huge social effects and economic losses.
But the pandemic presented a unique opportunity to recognise the role of science and scientists in societal and global development. Particularly, it created an opportunity for more engagements and collaborations between scientists, policy makers and members of the public. At the height of the pandemic in mid-2020, it is common to see scientists in the field of public health, epidemiology, and even in the social sciences providing expert knowledge to the government and members of the public on the best strategies to combat the pandemic. Given the limited expertise of most government officials in handling such health crisis, it could be argued that the technical support and expert knowledge of these scientists helped to manage the pandemic and limited the death toll.
Before COVID-19, scientific inputs in national decision making is not a common occurrence in most countries, due to the lack of collaboration between scientists, policy makers and the public. Key national decisions are often taken without scientific evidence or inputs from experts and scientists. But the COVID-19 pandemic has shown what can be achieved nationally and globally when there is collaboration between scientists and government officials or when policies are based on scientific evidence.
Hence, seeing scientists and government officials cooperating to provide solutions to one of the major global challenges of the moment is a great opportunity presented by the COVID-19 pandemic which can be leveraged upon to address other pressing global challenges such as poverty and inequality, and climate change.