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Dutch citizens and COVID-19

By Mark Bos PhD & Niels Couvreur 
In recent days, weeks and months, there has been ample attention to how Europeans respond to the COVID-19 crisis. See for example recent publications from Italy and Germany. This blog post provides an overview of the public perceptions of Dutch citizens on how the COVID-19 crisis is communicated and managed. 
The research was performed late April and the instrument was partly based on existing surveys, such as that used by Bucchi and Saracino (2020). The results reported here are based on answers provided by a representative sample of Dutch citizens of 18 years and older (N = 1222). At the moment of measurement, Dutch citizens had experienced an ‘intelligent’ lockdown for 5 weeks – during which all schools, restaurants and cafes were closed – as well as a call for social distancing and working from home when possible. The peak was over, but the pressure on healthcare still high. 
The research aimed to gain insight into Dutch citizens’ general media u…
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“The people have had enough of experts!” How to understand populist challenges to science

By Niels G. Mede 
Populists around the globe accuse political elites of ignoring the will of ‘the common people’. Oftentimes, however, they also bash academic elites – scientists, experts, and other epistemic authorities – for producing knowledge that is allegedly out of touch and useless, does not suit practical needs, and may contradict what ‘ordinary folks’ think. Such views have been echoed by politicians, businessmen, and celebrities. In a recent theory paper, Mike S. Schäfer and I conceptualize them as “science-related populism”. 

Entering an ‘anti-science era’? Presidents have claimed to have a “natural instinct for science” (Donald Trump)1 and demanded that science must “generate immediate return to the taxpayer” (Jair Bolsonaro)2. Media celebrities and business leaders have slurred science as the “big brain league” (Milo Yiannopoulos) 3 and praised common sense as an “incredible indictment of our elites” (Peter Thiel)4. In 2016, opinion polls 5 showed that 44% of Americans thi…

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…

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…