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Pandemic response is not a simple matter of listening to the science, as scientists themselves disagree. In this ongoing series, leading researchers debate how to transform knowledge into action.
Among the many dimensions of the COVID-19 pandemic is the relationship between science and policy. How does scientific research inform decision making? What forms of evidence do epidemiologists and other scientists use to recommend policy? What role do mathematical models play in guiding government action? And how should scientific and policy disagreements be weighed in the face of urgency and uncertainty?
This ongoing series of essays draws together reflections by leading scientists and philosophers of science on these fundamental issues of public health practice in a time of crisis.
The UK government’s ultra-cautious approach to “evidence-based” policy has helped cast doubt on public health interventions. The definition of good medical and public health practice must be urgently updated.
COVID-19 has revealed a contest between two competing philosophies of scientific knowledge. To manage the crisis, we must draw on both.
For the sake of both science and action in the COVID-19 pandemic, we need collaboration among specialists, not sects.
As policymakers debate the right response to COVID-19, they must take seriously the harms of pandemic policies, not just their benefits.
It is not only the scientific facts—including the grim death toll—that are at issue, but also the less often discussed relationship between science and decision-making, where values inevitably play a role.
Technocracy-as-science suits stable times, when the real world can passably resemble the laboratory. Emergencies disrupt this norm, since actions must be taken quickly, before all the evidence is in.
Mortality rates typically fall during economic downturns. But the unprecedented features of the COVID-19 shutdown suggest that trend might not hold this time.
…we need your help. Confronting the many challenges of COVID-19—from the medical to the economic, the social to the political—demands all the moral and deliberative clarity we can muster. In Thinking in a Pandemic, we’ve organized the latest arguments from doctors and epidemiologists, philosophers and economists, legal scholars and historians, activists and citizens, as they think not just through this moment but beyond it. While much remains uncertain, Boston Review’s responsibility to public reason is sure. That’s why you’ll never see a paywall or ads. It also means that we rely on you, our readers, for support. If you like what you read here, pledge your contribution to keep it free for everyone by making a tax-deductible donation.
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Both regulators and employers have embraced new technologies for on-the-job monitoring, turning a blind eye to unjust working conditions.
But I do miss the hymns, / the small, hard apples with their dimpled skin. I do miss / things.
The vast hinterlands of the Global South’s cities are generating new solidarities and ideas of what counts as a life worth living.