Islamabad: The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the ability of researchers to reach the audiences so much more quickly. There are receptive audience, always waiting for information, and there is a lot of hunger about scientific information and research-based knowledge. Science communication is relatively a new field of study. We should organize training for journalists on science communication to educate masses and fight infodemic, said Mr. Ehsan Masood while addressing COMSTECH webinar on “Pandemic lessons for science communication” held online, on Jan. 6.
He asked some basic questions; what is the criteria of lockdown, social distancing and when do we open and close borders, how do we test, trace and isolate and said that it does not relate to a sort of advance technology to answer these questions. There should have been some consensus amongst the world on it. But all of these things happening according to each country’s own standards, everyone is doing by self, may I call it pandemic of selfishness or what, He lamented.
Mr. Ehsan mentioned that in contrast, science is really fascinating. The pandemic has shown, that when researchers can set aside the desire to compete and when agree to work towards the greater shared goal, then look what can happen. He mentioned that I have not seen this level of cooperation in my 25 years long career in science journalism. The way researchers communicate with each other has been a much more collegial and cooperative endeavor.
Infodemic – a pandemic of misinformation, but also a pandemic of disinformation, which means deliberately intended to mislead or potentially to cause harm. The flow of scientific information has very heavily relied on social media. We have all benefitted massively from social media. But of-course this ability to communicate so much more quickly and easily with very vast number of people has downside as well. It is fueling the infodemic. The concerning element of this is the scale and speed of it.
He concluded by saying that science is happening faster, it is being communicated faster, the regulatory process is happening quicker, many more people are now involved in the research process, we talk about citizen science, public involvement, public engagement, all these things are coming on the way on the scale that is different.
By answering the questions of the audience, he said that we need to have good research to cope with infodemic. He said that the role of local languages is most important for effective science communication. Scientists should communicate by using different communication means available.
Ehsan Masood is a personality who have inspired everyone. He has done a wonderful work in his field and has international recognition on his achievements in the field of science journalism, said Prof. Dr. M. Iqbal Choudhary, Coordinator General COMSTECH while giving introductory remarks.
Dr. Iqbal said that in the context of pandemic we have seen that when the humanity was trying to meet the challenges posed by the pandemic, the human relationship has been exposed the vulnerability of humanity at large. He pointed out that we have seen gross failure of international cooperation, we have realized how important is the good governance.
He said that we have seen people struggling everywhere to communicate the right information and knowledge to the people and raised the question that how much miscommunication has caused a damage to the humanity during this pandemic. Dr. Iqbal said that it happened because of lack of knowledge of science communication and ability to reach out to masses, but certainly it was a major failure in terms of communication. He said that it has created a niche that science communication has real importance not only to communicate science but also to meet the challenge of this magnitude.
The lecture was attended by more than 250 participants from around the globe; Pakistan, Turkey, Iran, Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri-Lanka and Azerbaijan to name a few.
Ehsan Masood is a science journalist. He is presently Nature’s Editor for Editorials and also has responsibility for the journal’s news coverage from Africa and the Middle East. He is the author of a number of books including The Great Invention, a narrative history of how GDP became the world’s most influential economic indicator (Pegasus, 2016) and Science and Islam: A History (Second edition, Icon, 2017). He has also made documentaries on science and policy for BBC Radio 4 and was a 2017/2018 Knight Science Journalism Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Between 2007 and 2017 he taught science and innovation policy to students of science communication at Imperial College London.