Covid-19 Changed How the World Does Science, Together
– New York Times, April 1 2020, Matt Apuzzo and David D. Kirkpatrick
Using flag-draped memes and military terminology, the Trump administration and its Chinese counterparts have cast coronavirus research as national imperatives, sparking talk of a biotech arms race.
The world’s scientists, for the most part, have responded with a collective eye roll.
“Absolutely ridiculous,” said Jonathan Heeney, a Cambridge University researcher working on a coronavirus vaccine.
“That isn’t how things happen,” said Adrian Hill, the head of the Jenner Institute at Oxford, one of the largest vaccine research centers at an academic institution.
While political leaders have locked their borders, scientists have been shattering theirs, creating a global collaboration unlike any in history. Never before, researchers say, have so many experts in so many countries focused simultaneously on a single topic and with such urgency.
Through the WI Lens
For politicians, Covid-19 represents a stark domestic challenge, and the immediate need is to defend their record in tackling the virus to their electorate. Some, inevitably, can’t help perceiving an opportunity to boast about their own country’s prowess, whether that be in manufacturing ventilators or developing vaccines and tests. The New York Times highlights that, for scientists, coronavirus is viewed through a very different lens: as a threat to humanity that knows no borders, and for which the solutions must by necessity be global and discovered through collaboration.
The scale and ferocity of the pandemic is such that it has led to an unprecedented level of openness in sharing research and breaking down any vestige of secrecy within the scientific community. From a wellness perspective, it is to be hoped that when the dust settles, the latter viewpoint holds sway, and people increasingly recognise their shared humanity and reject a retreat to a narrow nationalism. You can’t experience true wellbeing at the expense of other people, whether that’s the hotel staff in your luxury resort or the workers who make your clothes or pick your fruit on the other side of the world. Globalisation has always had dangerous negative impacts in economic terms; but globalisation of endeavour to make the world a better place, and a truly globalised empathy would be worthy goals in a post-pandemic world.
“On such fragile foundations are built the first steps towards a more ethical kind of business, and who knows what virtuous circles might result?”
“Scientific evidence recently emerged that, contrary to earlier beliefs, Covid-19 can be spread by tiny droplets that we breathe out when we respire, called aerosols.”
“Economic wellbeing is part of the story, but it is also about finding less stressful lifestyles, in which healthy diet figures as a meaningful measure of success.”
“The industry has every asset needed to be a guiding light in the shift toward personal health priority. Will that become a prevention legacy, a ‘phoenix rising’ from the Covid-19 ashes?”
“Looking at the bigger picture, putting the measures in this order represents a lost opportunity that the pandemic could have offered for a cultural pivot pivot towards getting people more focused on their health, a powerful statement of intent.”
“Employment is necessary to fulfil our most basic human needs such as food and shelter. Any significant increase in long-term unemployment will spell a retrograde step for human wellbeing like no other.”
“All roads lead to a wellbeing anchor, whether that be economic/financial, physical, mental or emotional: all contribute to a progressive and inclusive cosmopolitan world. The answer should not be a choice of one or the other but of a joined up and compassionate solution for society, business and individuals.”
“The paradox is that we continue to do this in spite of recognising that striving to become ever-more productive is an intrinsically unhealthy behaviour, leading to stress and too often, a sense of failure.”
“The same broad-sweeping structural racism that enables police brutality against black Americans is also responsible for higher mortality among black Americans with Covid-19,” Maimuna Majumder, a Harvard epidemiologist working on the Covid-19 response, tells Vox.
The take-out from this? Wellbeing cannot exist at a more elevated level without our basic needs being met.