Communication and Public Engagement during a Global Pandemic

-Full Video of the seminar below-

Science in Times of COVID

This cycle of seminars aims at analyzing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic from different points of view. The world of science influences and is, in turn, itself influenced by various other fields complementary to it.

Within this frame, we have decided to offer IIT Alumni and the entire IIT population with the opportunity to think about aspects that are not directly visible on their daily empiric work, but which are connected to it, with the guidance of top-notch experts in sectors ranging from economics to history.


The COVID-19 global pandemic is a sad reminder of the importance of science communication and public engagement. As governments and health organisations have sought to tackle the virus, many (but not all) have turned to epidemiologists and disease specialists to develop policy and medical interventions, in an attempt to save lives. For the existing public engagement community, the inability to meet people in person has severely curtailed most activities. Ironically, this is at a time where entering into a dialogue about research has become most valuable. Scientific research can provide advice on how to handle a pandemic, but ultimately it is the responsibility of societies and individuals to decide how to act. With many interventions often resulting in stringent restrictions on personal freedoms, effective communication and engagement is crucial to provide clear justifications for how to act.

In this talk, I will reflect on how the pandemic has both positively and negatively affected a selection of existing pre-pandemic science communication and public engagement projects, as well as the emergence of new ideas. And how, as many have looked to scientists for answers, a reminder of the need to respect the boundaries of our own abilities and disciplines.



Dr Stuart Higgins is a biophysicist and engineer investigating cell – biomaterial interfaces and organic bioelectronic devices at Imperial College London. He is not an epidemiologist and has no expertise in pandemics. He does produce the award-winning podcast ‘Scientists not the Science’ ( which explores the culture of being a scientist. In 2019, he was the British Science Association’s Daphne Oram Award Lecturer, selected to present his research at the British Science Festival. He created ‘Science in the Supermarket’ ( an engagement project which aims to engage under-represented young families in supermarket settings. He has produced content for BBC Radio’s ‘The Naked Scientists’ radio show and has been involved in numerous engagement activities.



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