The global spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 has brought with it fear and confusion in varying degrees, as well as suffering and death in those hospital systems already or soon-to-be overwhelmed with acute cases. Meanwhile, the stock market continues to freefall, the economy is avalanching toward a historic recession, and millions of people are facing joblessness, defaults, and even homelessness and hunger. Among scientists, important data-gathering is being interrupted or critically undermined as researchers abide by physical distancing protocols.
It seems wholly inappropriate, then, or at the least embarrassingly facile, to look at the upsides. But there have always been immense challenges, and despair has never been a useful way forward.
One thing: the COVID-19 pandemic is proving to be a great moment for public acceptance and support of science. Joe Biden captured this best in the latest Democratic primary debate, declaring, “First and foremost, what we have to do is start to listen to the science again.” On social media, a picture of a church sign has circulated, which reads, “We are praying and listening to the scientists.” Across the news, science journalism is at an apex, as people pore over explainers about all the vaccines, therapies and diagnostic tools in development.
The flipside of all this enthusiasm for science is embodied in President Trump, who, after first downplaying the threat, has now resorted to making wild promises about near-term therapeutic solutions. He’s depicting scientists as magicians, and suggesting that the only thing holding them back is “red tape.” But even on a fast track, good science is thorough and takes time, especially when lives are at stake.
Such impatience is dangerous. At RE$EARCH MONEY, we are working hard to help meet the need for careful, accurate journalism on COVID-19. We’ll be devoting much of our effort in the coming weeks to reporting how this research is being funded and conducted, and Canada’s role in the global fight against the pandemic. We are also making this most important coverage freely available to readers. We’d love your help. Please send us your tips, suggestions and questions. Let’s get through this together, with clarity and collaboration.