In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have heard a lot of passionate perspectives about the evolving role of science in society.
We all agree that the pandemic has helped to clearly demonstrate (finally!) the importance of scientific research (whether fundamental, applied or commercial) to improve, and literally SAVE lives. Indeed science has had some significant wins in the fight against the virus, for example the record time in which highly efficacious vaccines were developed. But perhaps the reason why vaccine development was so successful is because it fit nicely with our existing models of R&D, which put the onus on academics and industry, to conceptualize and test counter-measures in a relative vacuum (our comforts were only slightly stretched in the form of cross-disciplinary and industry/academic collaborations and early, accelerated purchasing decisions by governments).
So how far have we really come?
Well, it is also evident that the pandemic has revealed serious cracks in emergency response systems around the globe. Whether it was in the communication of the evolving science to the public, the crafting and implementation of public health policies, the public’s confidence in government plans, or equitable access to healthcare services, almost every jurisdiction around the world came up short. These critical failures, the consequences of which were made painfully evident in daily news, came about because of grossly-lacking interfaces between science, policy and community.
We need to do better.
We need to do better not only for the next pandemic, but also to address other global and rapidly evolving threats, such as climate change.
We’d like your thoughts on how we can build and solidify the connective tissue between science and society, allowing for collective sense-making and collaborative design of solutions. For instance, concrete examples (from pandemic-related or non-related efforts) that paint a picture of what it looks like when:
- Scientists successfully engage with policy makers and the public to set relevant research directions
- Policy makers harness scientific evidence and scientific advancements to effectively anticipate and address societal needs
- Society is engaged as a partner in solution development not a (willing or unwilling) recipient of solutions
If you share an example with us, would you also let us know how you envision we can draw from this success to build sustainable and transformative frameworks for combating society’s grand challenges going forward?
We greatly appreciate your time and participation in this opinion poll.
Please send us your response by filling out the form below and let us know if you’re open to us sharing your thoughts along with your name and position in future editions of our newsletter so that we can provide our colleagues with a means to continue this important conversation.