Science, technology and innovation policy

Public communication and engagement in science: lessons learned from COVID-19



 22 April 2022  Virtual workshop




The COVID-19 crisis has dominated the public sphere for many months. The desire for rapid news on COVID-19-related developments, and the general interest of pretty much everyone in the world regarding COVID-19, meant that science was in greater demand than ever before. However, the crisis also underlined the challenges and potential weaknesses of science communication in society. Traditional media information was frequently challenged by postings on social networks. 

The role and impact of official communications, mainstream and social media in the public exchange of information between scientists (experts), government (policy-makers), intermediaries (journalists and social media platforms), and citizens evolved dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the same time, managing scientific uncertainties, that are inevitable during crises, proved to be a formidable challenge for the scientific community, as the traditional debate that usually takes place within the academic system spilled over into the public domain and sometimes led to confusion and distrust.

A potential solution for increasing trust is more effective public engagement and mobilisation, but the traditional participatory frameworks for achieving this had to be adapted. The pandemic limited in-person contacts, an innovative mechanisms had to be developed, making the maximum use of digital tools.

This workshop explored the challenges and interesting practices that emerged for communicating scientific information by various stakeholders and engaging the public during the COVID-19 pandemic. It explored how to build the public trust, which is necessary for the successful implementation of policies to address crises. 



WORKSHOP documents


12:15-13:15 Session 1: Scientific information, disinformation, and misinformation: perspectives from communication professionals

Case studies

  • Lu’chen Foster (Head of health partnerships, Facebook): Managing conflicting information in social media
  • Takahiro Kinoshita (Deputy-Chair, Covid-19 Navigator Cov-Navi): Collaboration between scientists and journalists to flatten the curve of infodemic

Panel discussion

  • Gabriela Capurro (University of Manitoba and School of Journalism and Communication at Carleton University)

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13:30-14:30 Session 2: Managing diverse scientific opinions and uncertainties

Case studies

  • Anat Gesser-Edelsburg (University of Haifa) : Parallel evolution of the internal discourse on Covid in health institutions with the communication to the public: an Israeli case study 4
  • Jean-Gabriel Ganascia (CNRS ethics committee, France): Scientific communication from researchers during a health crisis


  • Tracy Vaillancourt (Chair of the Royal Society Canada taskforce on COVID-19)

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14:30-15:30 Session 3: Public engagement and mobilisation in science and science advice during crises

Case studies

  • Li-Yin Liu (University of Dayton): Taiwan’s National Epidemic Prevention
  • Felicity Callard (University of Glascow): Patients engagement during the COVID19 crisis


  • Barbara Prainsack (University of Vienna)

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15:35-16:15 Session 4. Building confidence and long-term trust

This session built on the earlier sessions and explore what policy measures and actions might be taken to promote confidence and trust in science in the longer-term. What is the role of different actors and how can they work together more effectively to improve mutual understanding and trust?

Panel discussion with all previous session speakers and panellists

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