Ceding the field isn’t an option

I’ve been thinking a lot about this call by Bruce Glavovic, Tim Smith and Iain White for a moratorium on further climate change research until the “science-society contract” is restored:

Climate change science is settled to the point of global consensus. We have fulfilled our responsibility to provide robust knowledge. We now need to stop research in those areas where we are simply documenting global warming and maladaptation, and focus instead on exposing and renegotiating the broken science-society contract. The IPCC’s 6th Assessment will be completed in 2022. Will the response to this assessment be any different to the previous five assessments? Nothing indicates that this will be the case. In fact, given the rupture of the science-society contract outlined here, it would be wholly irresponsible for scientists to participate in a 7th IPCC assessment. We therefore call for a halt to further IPCC assessments. We call for a moratorium on climate change research until governments are willing to fulfil their responsibilities in good faith and urgently mobilize coordinated action from the local to global levels. This third option is the only effective way to arrest the tragedy of climate change science.

There are several good, provocative points in the article. If I had to be critical I’d suggest that it’s somewhat ahistorical, and discounts the decisive role politics has always played in determining pubic policy. Parenthetically, it’s probably only in the postwar technocratic period that there has been any alignment between politics and science to create something that could be considered an implied science-society contract. That era seems to be ending.

It made me think a lot about the other areas of research that have become diligent (and diligently ignored) scientific busywork. Pouring your heart into the slow process of developing more precise and certain knowledge *is* a waste if nobody will act on it. Maybe it is sensible not to focus on applied basic research any more. But the implementation and intervention research into what might enable action and influence then seems more critical.

Ceding the field isn’t an option.


Glavovic, B. C., Smith, T. F., & White, I. (2021). The tragedy of climate change science. Climate and Development, 0(0), 1–5. https://doi.org/10.1080/17565529.2021.2008855

‘We need to respect the process of healing’: a GP on the overlooked art of recovery

The reality of mind and body is one of dynamism and change – any vision of human life that is static at heart is an illusion. Sometimes the most helpful attitude to adopt is not to think of illness categories as concrete, immutable destinies, but as stories of the mind and the body. Within certain impassable limits, stories can be rewritten.
— Read on www.theguardian.com/world/2022/jan/04/we-need-to-respect-the-process-of-healing-a-gp-on-the-overlooked-art-of-recovery

Science communication is a political project, even if you don’t like to admit it

“in the book Zimmer argues that evolution need not have any ideological or political implications—after all, science is not political. That this seems true to exactly none of the actors in the conflict he recounts—from the red-state legislators to the school administrators—does not disturb the placidity of Zimmer’s analysis. His subsequent books on politically weighted science topics (most notably those involving neuroscience and heredity) are uniformly erudite, charming, and—above all—impenetrably sealed off from difficult political questions. For all its encomiums to the empirical, in the end this kind of commitment to an idealistic bit can survive the threat of reality only one way: by escaping it.”

A Virus Without a World: The politics of science writing

Now it gets more difficult

From the University of Melbourne’s Vaccine Hesitancy Tracker:

Vaccine hesitancy across Australia has fallen from 21.8% on 7th August to 20.3% on 20th August

This fall is concentrated amongst those who were previously unsure, with 8.6% unsure on 20th August compared to 9.8% two weeks earlier. The percentage unwilling to be vaccinated has not changed much in the past month

Vaccine hesitancy in NSW is still the lowest in Australia. However, hesitancy has increased slightly in NSW despite the continuing rise in cases of COVID-19, from 17.3% on 7th August to 18% on 20th August

In NSW over the last two weeks, more people are unwilling to be vaccinated (from 9.2% to 11.8%) and fewer are unsure (from 8.1% to 6.2%). Those who are unsure are more likely to be influenced by incentives. More information can be found in this Research Insight article

Source: Vaccine Hesitancy Tracker

Who could have seen this?

An interesting post on Social behavior and the covid pandemic, but the last bit of this quote jumped out at me:

But here’s the thing: what 2010-era sociologist or political scientist would have predicted that a major global pandemic would occur in the next several decades, that an almost miraculous search for an effective vaccine would be successful in an amazingly short period — and that the pandemic and vaccine would become a political issue leading to mass refusal to vaccinate? All global epidemiologists believed the first proposition — that pandemic would occur sometime; some biological researchers thought that vaccine creation could advance quickly; but I can’t think of any respected political scientist or sociologist who would have predicted the massive movement that has emerged against vaccination and the politicization of the spread of the virus. 

Social behavior and the covid pandemic – Understanding Society

I can’t think of many social scientists working in vaccination who haven’t been thinking about this for at least a decade.

More than 50 long-term effects of COVID-19: a systematic review and meta-analysis

More evidence and research from multi-disciplinary teams are crucial to understanding the causes, mechanisms, and risks to develop preventive measures, rehabilitation techniques, and clinical management strategies with whole-patient perspectives designed to address the after-COVID-19 care. There is a need for more information about prospective studies to better evaluate the natural course of COVID-19 infection and define the long- COVID-19 syndrome. From the clinical point of view, physicians should be aware of the symptoms, signs, and biomarkers present in patients previously affected by COVID-19 to promptly assess, identify and halt long COVID-19 progression, minimize the risk of chronic effects help reestablish pre-COVID-19 health. Management of all these effects requires further understanding to design individualized, dynamic cross-sectoral interventions in Post-COVID-19 clinics with multiple specialties, including graded exercise, physical therapy, frequent medical evaluations, and cognitive behavioral therapy when required
— Read on www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-95565-8