Empowering youths for effective science communication during covid crisis
Photo Credit: For representational purpose only
Ever since the global outbreak of COVID-19 has occurred, we are facing two pandemics simultaneously- COVID-19 itself and a similar virulent combination of myths, misconceptions and misinformation. It takes no time for a scientific finding to become distorted.
For instance, if you remember, various claims for a vaccine against COVID-19 were made just within a month of the outbreak of the disease. Leave alone the approval of the vaccine; it takes several months only to perform the clinical trials. A false rumor was also circulated that alcohol consumption or living in a
warm environment would protect against the virus. It was also believed that those who have been infected with the virus will die for sure although as reported by the studies, the infection has a very low-mortality rate among previously healthy individuals. These rumors, without any scientific evidence, were the main reason behind the panicky situation for whole country during this outbreak.
However, the actual challenge may not be the ‘rumor-mongering;’ it is our habit of believing every piece of information that we encounter. Anyhow, if we can engage ourselves with the actual science behind things, it would prevent the spread of any misleading information.
A valid ‘science communication’ is a way that can fulfill this purpose. It helps the public understand what the research findings and scientific inventions actually mean and also ensure that any scientific information is not being misinterpreted by them.
But who is expected to communicate science? I must say this is not solely the responsibility of the scientific community, though they are the primary conveyor. All of us, especially youth, will have to ensure that every piece of information being spread in the community has some scientific evidence supporting it. No information should be circulated without verifying its originality and reliability.
Social media is a powerful platform that should be leveraged in the popularisation of true science. In order to verify any piece of information, we should take help of reliable and valid resources and platforms launched by the government officials.
Moreover, this is not the first time when we are facing an ‘infodemic,’ this keeps happening in our everyday life too. In today’s world, the way in which science is presented to the students or general masses does not seem to be compelling. This is the reason why there exists a significant gap of knowledge between the ‘science world’ and general masses, which needs to be bridged. Bringing science education not only to the textbooks and journals but to the movies, novels, and other creative means will be a commendable step in this direction.
As Frank Oppenheimer in 1969 said, “If people feel they understand the world around them or, probably, even if they have the conviction that they could understand it if they wanted to, then and only then are they also able to feel that they can make a difference through their decisions and activities.”
In a nutshell, shaping the public perception of scientific information through the ‘science communication’ can indeed become a tool to design a world where all of us would love to live rather than living in a world proposed for us.
Kaushal Kishore Singh is an undergraduate MBBS student at Lucknow's King George's Medical University. The views expressed are personal.
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