Science communication advice and opinions from Scientia
Following the announcements of three approved COVID-19 vaccines, when many of us were dancing for joy, anti-vaccination – or ‘anti-vax’ – proponents around the world were ramping up their efforts. Twitter posts quickly began circulating drawing comparisons between the new COVID-19 vaccines and thalidomide – the notorious medication that led to thousands of children being born with congenital disorders in the 1960s. Conveniently, the posts failed to mention that the tragedies wrought by thalidomide led to strict new regulations for clinical trials that have ultimately helped medicine to reach the excellent safety records experienced today. Science, by its very nature, is a field that recognises and develops from past mistakes.
In today’s landscape of widespread social media use, the average internet user will be no stranger to science conspiracy theories. From misleading reports of imminent asteroid impacts, to falsified statistics that appear to undermine the severity of climate change, the public is now being exposed to misleading statistics and unproven claims at unprecedented levels. While many of us have learnt to recognise the dangers of this content, it has also persuaded many others to outright reject scientific facts. As social media has come to influence so many aspects of our everyday lives over the past decade, this critical problem now seems to be growing rapidly.
Vaccines were, arguably, the greatest medical advancement of the 20th century. Their safety and efficacy have improved significantly over the last few decades as new scientific evidence and technologies have developed. Long gone are the days of Edward Jenner scraping out cowpox blisters to deposit into scratches on uninfected people’s skin, as an early smallpox inoculation.
Effective science communication is now recognised as an important component of science itself, warranting its own consideration. Many research projects, especially those attracting public funding, now have a dedicated communication strategy for disseminating their findings and engaging with the public. This has an important purpose beyond any individual message – bridging the gap to the public helps to prevent mistrust of scientists.
SciComm Corner – The importance of disseminating reliable psychology and neuroscience information during the COVID-19 pandemic
Countless individuals worldwide are currently facing consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, whether these are economic, social, practical or related to their physical and mental wellbeing. In this time marked by uncertainty, confusion and isolation, many people can find themselves feeling stressed, anxious, hopeless, or overwhelmed.
Since the discovery of the novel coronavirus causing COVID-19 in December 2019, science has taken the centre stage of everyone’s lives. Virologists, epidemiologists, and other health scientists have become daily features in the media, while politicians and the public are turning to science to answer important questions. Scientists have rallied to answer these questions in a race against the clock, where every day of inaction means a matter of life and death for potentially thousands of families.
ABOUT SCICOMM CORNER
As well as bringing you the latest science through our publication, we also like to share our opinions and insights about the world of science communication. Here we provide practical guidance for scientists and science communicators who desire to communicate science to a broader audience in an effective and engaging manner.
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