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Italian Citizens and Covid-19: One Month Later – April 2020

Scared, Supportive and Confident in Science (but a little confused by expert communication) Trends and changes in the perception of the pandemic: the new data from the Science in Society Monitor by Massimiano Bucchi and Barbara Saracino
One month after the first survey by the Science in Society Monitor, the percentage of those undermining the Covid-19 threat decreases down to 4%. The more and more widespread concern is also reflected in how interviewees perceive the reaction of the population to the crisis, characterised by “fear” for almost four out of ten and by “solidarity” for one out of four. The expectation for “phase 2” is that a mix of actions is needed, with an important role played by research. Trust in science is high, but almost half of Italians see the diversity of advice from experts as a potential source of confusion.  Information sources and trustRegarding information about the pandemic, two-thirds of Italians (with a substantial increase in last month) mainly refer to tv a…
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Italian citizens and covid-19

One fifth still underplays the threat, in particular young people and those who use social media for information on the pandemic

BY Massimiano Bucchi and Barbara Saracino
More than one Italian citizen over five still underplays the Covid-19 threat. This is one of the key results emerging from the recent survey conducted by Observa Science in Society Monitor. The monitor analyses in the first place exposure to information. The majority of Italians is getting their information on the emergency mainly through TV and radio news (52%). The second major source are websites of institutions, like the Ministry of Health and regional and local institutions (20,5%). Only a minority is gathering information mainly through social media.  Regarding precautions to avoid contagion, however, trust in official source clearly prevails: indications from national and local institutions and from one’s own GP are respectively the most and second most trustworthy source of information.

How is the work of diff…

How to Evaluate the Dynamic Public Health Risk of COVID-19

We are seeing coronavirus or COVID-19 emerging across the globe including in our own back yard. What should we be considering with respect to evaluating COVID-19 risk, making sense of numbers, and for whom this is a health risk?
What do risk and crisis communication theories tell us about how to communicate about COVID-19 risk with the public and how might we think about this evolving public health threat for the protection of our community, our families, and our own health?
Making Sense of COVID-19 Numbers Although the numbers keep changing there are some facts and principles we can consider for where to turn to, what to be cognizant of, and how to evaluate this evolving public health risk threat. There are also not only the number of cases reported worldwide and at home that speak to the spread of disease, but there are numbers that speak to severity of disease risk
the case fatality rate (CFR), which measures the risk that someone who develops symptoms will eventually die and there …

Biohackers tackle the coronavirus

The World Health Organization, ministries, doctors, the media: it’s hardly surprising that all these actors produce and communicate data on the coronavirus (COVID-19). But that hackers and biohackers take up the subject is far more astonishing.

Biohackers from BioCurious, a community laboratory created in 2010 near San Francisco, are monitoring the epidemic closely and organized the Wuhan Virus Co-Learning Hackathon on February 1. The hackathon’s objectives: understanding how viruses in general work and spread, analyzing the genome of the coronavirus, and examining how the latter propagates. The philosophy of this hackathon, as of the activities of biohackers in general, is that of a democratization of science. The aim, in other words, is to render scientific and technical knowledge more accessible to citizens.

At Simon Fraser University, near Vancouver, a hackathon called EpiCoronaHack took place from February 18 to 19. Participants worked on data analysis, modeling and simulation …

Equipping scientists with the skills to engage public audiences

Scientists are increasingly expected to step out of their ivory towers and engage with policy makers and diverse public audiences. These demands come from not only those who fund and support research, but also from public interest groups and society at large. Some scientists respond enthusiastically to such opportunities. These ‘communicating scientists’ typically have a flair for public speaking and popular writing and they enjoy media interviews and public platforms. However, they are the exceptions. Most scientists shy away from the media and the public spotlight.

One of the barriers that prevent scientists from participating in public communication is a self-perceived inability (or lack of skills) to communicate about their work in a popular style. After all, as far as communication goes, scientists’ training focuses on communicating to peers within the science arena. This communication ‘within science’ is done using the semantics of science and sticking to strict scientific norm…

Family affairs: public and private cord blood banking in Italy

Preserving the umbilical cord blood (UCB) of a newborn child in a private biobank for possible future family uses is criticized by bioethical and biomedical literature as challenging the moral economy of donating cord blood to public banks for being used in transplantations.
Donation to public banks is described as embedded in the social relations of reciprocity, solidarity, and obligation to the collectivity. Private preservation is instead presented as a self-interested act, disembedded from social relations. How to avoid this asymmetrical distinction between embeddedness and disembeddedness? By using the notion of entanglement developed by Michel Callon is possible to locate the circulation of cord blood, both in the circuit of donation and in those of private storage, according to how it is framed in a network of entangled elements, including different attachments to a distinct set of social relations and social formations.

The discourse promoting donation to public banks indeed s…

Science in the kitchen and beyond: Cooking with Pellegrino Artusi in post-unified Italy

As an historian interested in the public understanding of medicine and health in modern Italy, it was impossible for me to not write about food and its political, social and cultural importance. Italian food is famous all around the world. Almost everyone knows about pasta, pizza and the immense economic and cultural significance of Italian food. However, not many know that Italy’s distinct culinary tradition is a rather recent concept, formed only after the unification of the country (1861). The creation of an Italian diet was part of a political process aimed at improving the health of the new Italian population while also forging a sense of national identity.

In this story about food and national identity there is one individual, Pellegrino Artusi (1820-1911), who contributed more than anyone else to make regional Italian recipes and the language of food known all across the peninsula.
Artusi published in 1891 an extremely successful book about food, recipes and diet: La Scienza …