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  • The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has caused an overload of scientific information in the media, sometimes including misinformation or the dissemination of false content. This so-called infodemic, at a low intensity level, is also manifested in the spread of scientific and medical illustrations of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Since the beginning of the pandemic, images of other long-known viruses, sometimes imaginary reconstructions, or viruses that cause diseases in other, non-human species have been attributed to SARS-CoV-2. In a certain way, one can thus speak of a case of an imagedemic based on an alteration of the rigour and truth of informative illustrations in the media. Images that illustrate informative data have an influence on the emotional perception of viewers and the formation of attitudes and behaviours in the face of the current or future pandemics. So, image disinformation should be avoided, making it desirable that journalists confirm the validity of scientific images with the same rigour that they apply to any other type of image, instead of working with fake, made-up images from photo stock services. At a time when scientific illustration has great didactic power, high-quality information must be illustrated using images that are as accurate and real as possible, as for any other news topic. It is fundamental that informative illustrations about COVID-19 used in the media are scientifically rigorous.

    • Celia Andreu-Sánchez
    • Miguel Ángel Martín-Pascual
    Comment Open Access
  • Scientific collaborations among nations to address common problems and to build international partnerships as part of science diplomacy is a well-established notion. The international flow of people and ideas has played an important role in the advancement of the ‘Sciences’ and the current pandemic scenario has drawn attention towards the genuine need for a stronger role of science diplomacy, science advice and science communication. In dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, visible interactions across science, policy, science communication to the public and diplomacy worldwide have promptly emerged. These interactions have benefited primarily the disciplines of knowledge that are directly informing the pandemic response, while other scientific fields have been relegated. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on scientists of all disciplines and from all world regions are discussed here, with a focus on early-career researchers (ECRs), as a vulnerable population in the research system. Young academies and ECR-driven organisations could suggest ECR-powered solutions and actions that could have the potential to mitigate these effects on ECRs working on disciplines not related to the pandemic response. In relation with governments and other scientific organisations, they can have an impact on strengthening and creating fairer scientific systems for ECRs at the national, regional, and global level.

    • Sandra López-Vergès
    • Bernardo Urbani
    • Paulina Carmona-Mora
    Comment Open Access
  • Academic CVs are ubiquitous and play an integral role in the assessment of researchers. They define and portray what activities and achievements are considered important in the scientific system. Developing their content and structure beyond the traditional, publication-focused CV has the potential to make research careers more diverse and their assessment fairer and more transparent. This comment presents ten ways to further develop the content and structure of academic CVs. The recommendations are inspired by a workshop of the CV Harmonization Group (H-Group), a joint initiative between researchers on research, academic data infrastructure organizations, and representatives from >15 funding organizations. The proposed improvements aim at inspiring development and innovation in academic CVs for funding agencies and hiring committees.

    • Michaela Strinzel
    • Josh Brown
    • Michael Hill
    Comment Open Access
  • The sustainable development goals (SDGs) emphasize the inextricable connections between improved health and wider development indices. This vision is not matched by the ways that progress towards each constituent goal is achieved, and the SDGs are not on track to being met. This commentary considers theories and frameworks capturing the inter-relationships between health and its wider determinants, before discussing examples from mental health and HIV which demonstrate the power of interdisciplinary research. This commentary proposes solutions to integrate wider determinants of health into future research and practice, considering evidence from the PLuS International Interdisciplinary Researchers (PIIR) program between Arizona State University, King’s College London and the University of New South Wales, and how other approaches to interdisciplinary training can enhance clinical-academic progress in the post-COVID-19 era. Despite several frameworks promoting interdisciplinary collaboration, specialists continue to be segregated by funding, training and departmental structures. Early career researchers are well-placed to lead innovative approaches to pressing research questions. International partnership models and interdisciplinary training for early career researchers can expose participants to new perspectives and integrate wider determinants of health into future research and practice. University communities must embrace the need for a radical reimagining of boundaries and connections, if academia, too, is to “build back better.”

    • Roxanne C. Keynejad
    • H. Manisha Yapa
    • Poushali Ganguli
    Comment Open Access
  • The 2020 Covid-19 pandemic has forced science advisory institutions and processes into an unusually prominent role, and placed their decisions under intense public, political and media scrutiny. In the UK, much of the focus has been on whether the government was too late in implementing its lockdown policy, resulting in thousands of unnecessary deaths. Some experts have argued that this was the result of poor data being fed into epidemiological models in the early days of the pandemic, resulting in inaccurate estimates of the virus’s doubling rate. In this article, I argue that a fuller explanation is provided by an analysis of how the multiple uncertainties arising from poor quality data, a predictable characteristic of an emergency situation, were represented in the advice to decision makers. Epidemiological modelling showed a wide range of credible doubling rates, while the science advice based upon modelling presented a much narrower range of doubling rates. I explain this puzzle by showing how some science advisors were both knowledge producers (through epidemiological models) and knowledge users (through the development of advice), roles associated with different perceptions of scientific uncertainty. This conflation of experts’ roles gave rise to contradictions in the representation of uncertainty over the doubling rate. Role conflation presents a challenge to science advice, and highlights the need for a diversity of expertise, a structured process for selecting experts, and greater clarity regarding the methods by which expert consensus is achieved. The analysis indicates an urgent research agenda that can help strengthen the UK science advice system after Covid-19.

    • Warren Pearce
    Comment Open Access
  • In 2018, the South African Minister of Health gazetted a material transfer agreement (SA MTA) that must be used as a framework whenever a researcher based in South Africa is involved in the transfer of human biological material. The SA MTA therefore impacts not only on the South African research community, but also its international research partners. The SA MTA has been portrayed in a positive light by Labuschaigne et al. in a recent article. By contrast, in this present article, the position taken is that the SA MTA is deeply problematic, and it is argued that Labuschaigne et al. have erred with regard to three key propositions of their account of the SA MTA. The first proposition, namely that a Health Research Ethics Committee should be a party to a material transfer agreement, as contemplated in the SA MTA, is shown to be unfeasible. Similarly, the second proposition, namely that under the SA MTA a research participant retains proprietary rights in donated human biological material, is shown to be legally untenable. The third proposition, namely that the arbitration option in the SA MTA (which allows parties to opt out of the jurisdiction of South African courts) is both necessary and adequate, is shown to be false. Not only is the claim that the arbitration option is required by international collaborators contradicted by Labuschaigne et al.’s own example, but the present SA MTA’s dispute resolution provisions are shown to be inadequate. In this light, a more appropriate solution in respect of dispute resolution is proposed. In the interest of both the South African research community and their international research partners, the South African Minister of Health is called upon to engage in open public consultation on the SA MTA and to fundamentally revise it as a matter of urgency.

    • Donrich Thaldar
    Comment Open Access