2023-01-04 Research News

Catherine Beauchemin (Deputy Program Director, iTHEMS) is interviewed in the Winter issue of RIKEN NEWS 2023.

COVID-19 can only transmit if an infected person infects an uninfected person. So if 100% of sick people stayed home, there would be zero new cases, and COVID-19 would be over. Since transmission relies on the behaviour of each individual, to manage or even end COVID-19 requires the cooperation of every person in society. This is the big challenge we continue to face even now.

Misinformation has become a big problem in society. People trust their own opinion and that of their friends and family more than facts. There is also a tendency to distrust government officials, pharmaceutical companies, news media and scientists. Sometimes it is true that such people or organizations will lie or exaggerate, so it is reasonable and important for a person to be skeptical. In fact, skeptical thinking is essential in science: we need to open our mind to new results, especially those that contradict our assumptions and hypotheses.

So what can be done? I think the best way to combat misinformation and build a lasting trust with the public is complete transparency, by openly (free/re-usable) sharing data and scientific analyses with the general public, so people around the world can independently verify the facts.

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