About this Research Topic
Fearon, Götz, and Good titled an April 2020 post in Nature, “Pivotal moment for trust in science – don’t waste it.” They along with other scientists note that experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic has led numerous people who had previously paid little or no attention to science and science policy to look to scientists for guidance. Despite being a global health emergency, the pandemic provides an array of opportunities to encourage a revival of public support for and engagement with science during a global crisis. Along with these opportunities, however come threats. Scholars of science communication and public engagement are uniquely positioned to identify, catalogue and analyze these opportunities and threats, to analyze the impact of communicative strategies on scientific knowledge and to evaluate the contemporary influence of media on public beliefs, attitudes and behaviors.
This Research Topic contributes to the emerging literature on the social dimensions of COVID-19 by examining how communication relates to attitudes, practices and values that the pandemic has placed in harsh relief. We are particularly interested in explorations such as the following:
• Inquiries into how various publics are responding to social distancing and other protective measures: How are culture, ideology, risk perceptions, trust, emotions and values associated with protective behavior (e.g. social distancing, mask wearing)? How has the embodied experience of confinement, limited circulation and perceived vulnerability influenced understandings of the pandemic? How has the experience of living through COVID-19 impacted understandings of the health sciences and their relation to policy?
• Inquiries into differential costs and benefits of mitigation measures: How do policymakers justify the differential costs and benefits of COVID-19 mitigation measures to different publics? How does public messaging differ among and between countries or regions, organizations, news outlets and key actors?
• Explorations of the relationship between trust, responsibility and uncertainty: In the midst of an unprecedented public health emergency, how should experts address scientific uncertainty? How do trust, accountability and democracy relate to each other during this pandemic? What role do ideology, perceived bias and perceived scientific expertise play in trust? How do social media constrain and enable trust in science? How do trust and perceived uncertainty influence the adoption of protective behaviors?
• Theoretical and normative inquiries into science communication itself: How can inclusive and context-sensitive forms of communication on COVID-19 be imagined and enacted? How are science communication or public engagement practices shifting and can these changes be attributed to COVID-19? What presumptions about individuals and social collectives were inscribed into public health policies and their communication and were they made transparent? What kinds of political considerations have shaped governmental science communication in different countries? What forms of visual communication were developed to communicate statistical phenomena and “follow” the pandemic?
We encourage multiple article types, including, but not limited to: original research, hypothesis and theory, review, perspective, opinion, conceptual analysis, community case study and policy & practice review. Article submissions should be in English.
Due to the exceptional nature of the COVID-19 situation, Frontiers is waiving all article publishing charges for papers submitted to this Research Topic by the manuscript deadline.
Keywords: credibility, democracy, public health, risk perceptions, uncertainty
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.