Science, responsible research and innovation at the forefront of COVID-19

Science, responsible research and innovation at the forefront of COVID-19

on July 22, 2020

In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Recommendation on Science and Scientific Researchers, adopted by the UNESCO General Conference in 2017, is a key instrument established to improve policies on science and scientific researchers while bringing countries closer to the complete realization of the human right to science.

As part of the RRING project (Responsible Research and Innovation Networking Globally), a virtual workshop was led by PRIA (Participatory Research In Asia), in close cooperation with UNESCO New Delhi, on 9 July 2020.

Panelists included — Dr Rajesh Tandon, Founder-President of PRIA, and co-chair of the UNESCO Chair in Community-based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education; Mr Juan Pablo Ramirez-Miranda, Programme Specialist and Chief of Section for Social and Human Sciences, UNESCO New Delhi;  Dr Anand Krishnan, Professor at the Centre For Community Medicine, The All India Institute of Medical Sciences; Dr Rashmi Rodrigues, Associate Professor, Department of Community Health, St. John’s Medical College, Bangalore;  and Mr Dinesh Sharma, Jawaharlal Nehru Fellow and Founding Managing Editor of India Science Wire.

Dr Tandon opened the webinar by describing challenges caused by the current pandemic and the critical importance of science. He highlighted the necessity to obtain vaccines and remedies as early as possible. He emphasized the importance of new forms of communication between scientists and the general public through Open Science.

Juan Pablo Ramirez-Miranda presented the Recommendation on Science and Scientific Researchers and described its main features on how it provides a global standard for all relevant stakeholders to frame developments in science. The Recommendation is designed to guide their approach from policy to practice. He further shared that the Recommendation, while ensuring the freedom of science and scientists, also focuses on the role of ethics and responsibility.

It was discussed that as signatories to the Recommendation, each of the 195 nations (including India) are required to produce a first report on how public administrations are applying the principles of the Recommendation, by 31 March 2021.  The report should analyze the national science systems on different issues such as the freedom of scientists, or the inclusivity in STEM education schools, among other key areas.

The final session of the discussion included interventions from Dr Anand Krishnan, Dr Rashmi Rodrigues, and Mr Dinesh Sharma on the topic of Open Science. They recognized the importance of not only sharing data to promote open science, but also the need to develop national policies promoting transparency and accountability. Panelists also emphasized how crucial it is to strengthen institutional mechanisms to initiate a dialogue between all stakeholders, particularly during the pandemic.  In this context, the role of science communicators and journalists can be central in bridging the gap between scientists and the general public by ensuring a flow of accurate and easy to understand information.