The scientific response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been extraordinary. However, the work of the scientific community has often been overshadowed by poor communication, misreporting, poor policy making and maladministration.
The COVID-19 pandemic, and the public and governmental reaction to it, has illustrated the critical importance of a number of related themes:
‚- Clear communication of science, healthcare, and lifestyle issues
‚- The appropriate use of statistics at a level that both engages and informs
‚- The need for openness and public trust in elected and appointed officials
‚- The need for effective debate re science and policy, but a parallel need that this be constructive, co-ordinated and non-political
‚- The need to vigorously refute misinformation
The key challenge is how the lessons of the last 12 months may be used to improve the public and political understanding of scientific issues. Just as the American Revolution coined the phrase ‚’no taxation without representation‚’, so this war should generate a culture of ‚’no decision without understanding‚’.
Mechanisms must be established to improve the communication and understanding of scientific issues, their interactions with the political and economic arenas, and the assessment of competing risk. In parallel, for a democracy to function effectively, the public must have confidence in their representatives. Mechanisms must be developed to ensure effective fact checking and to control the spread of misinformation, both in politics and on social media.
‚’The only thing required for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing‚’.