Established by the President of the Royal Society of Canada in April 2020, the RSC Task Force on COVID-19 was mandated to provide evidence-informed perspectives on major societal challenges in response to and recovery from COVID-19.
The Task Force established a series of Working Groups to rapidly develop Policy Briefings, with the objective of supporting policy makers with evidence to inform their decisions.
Overview of Let’s Do Better: Public Representations of COVID-19 Science
COVID science is being both done and circulated at a furious pace. While it is inspiring to see the research community responding so vigorously to the pandemic crisis, all this activity has also created a churning sea of bad data, conflicting results, and exaggerated headlines. With representations of science becoming increasingly polarized, twisted and hyped, there is growing concern that the relevant science is being represented to the public in a manner that may cause confusion, inappropriate expectations, and the erosion of public trust. Here we explore some of the key issues associated with the representations of science in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of these issues are not new. But the COVID-19 pandemic has placed a spotlight on the biomedical research process and amplified the adverse ramifications of poor public communication. We need to do better. As such, we conclude with ten recommendations aimed at key actors involved in the communication of COVID-19 science, including government, funders, universities, publishers, media and the research communities.
Authors of the Report
Timothy Caulfield (Chair), Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy, University of Alberta
Tania Bubela, Professor and Dean, Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University
Jonathan Kimmelman, James McGill Professor in the Biomedical Ethics Unit, McGill University
Vardit Ravitsky, Professor, Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Université de Montréal
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