6 ways the new coronavirus is changing science

Scientific information comes faster
The technology of the 21st century enables science to advance rapidly. The latest COVID-19 information spreads extremely fast through the Internet, and media reports are directly transmitted to our smartphones. In May 2020, Jonathan Kimmelman, a bioethicist at McGill University, co-authored a review article in the journal Science, emphasizing the need to maintain scientific rigor to conduct research “crazy” during a crisis Sex.

Kimmelman said the solution is coordination between the research teams to consolidate their research. Some organizations that conduct clinical trials are achieving this goal. Oxford University cooperates with hospitals across the UK to conduct rehabilitation trials, and the World Health Organization’s group trials have recruited patients in more than 20 countries. These two trials play a key role in evaluating the efficacy of dexamethasone and other treatments for COVID-19. However, so far, such large-scale scientific research on COVID-19 is still rare, and conventional research is still small-scale.

More participants in the web conference
The annual meetings of the scientific community before the pandemic are usually held in convention centers in large cities. This practice often creates obstacles for international scientists, early-career scientists, or low-income scientists who lack funds to pay for travel, accommodation, or registration fees. It also creates obstacles for disabled scientists or young scientists. In 2020, COVID-19 is forcing conferences to be virtualized. As a result, such meetings have suddenly become more acceptable to scientists all over the world. In April 2020, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) became one of the first groups to try online meetings. A total of 62,000 people from 140 countries registered for the meeting, more than twice the number of face-to-face meetings in previous years. AACR and other organizations are considering hybrid meetings. After the pandemic, offline live meetings and online meetings will be combined.

More direct contact with science
In an era of uncertainty, social media makes it easier for the public to access the opinions of scientists and interact directly with scientists. In February 2020, Natalie Dean, a biostatistician at the University of Florida who studies infectious diseases, began to write a long post on Twitter explaining key emerging concepts related to the COVID-19 model and transmission. Dean said that before the outbreak, she had only about 200 fans, but quickly exceeded 85,000 in a year. As for why she wants to tweet the long article, Dean said that she wants to make science more accessible and acceptable to the public. Dean said: “It is difficult for the public to tell which information is good and which is bad.” She recalled how she felt at the time and added: “I think it has something to do with the urgency of the situation.”

Scientific research is more unified
Researchers from all over the world unite to increase the understanding of the new coronavirus and ultimately protect humanity. Many scientists have temporarily left their initial research to collaborate with immunologists and epidemiologists to provide novel perspectives. Anthony Ribas, an oncologist and cancer researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles, said his laboratory and many other laboratories apply cancer research results to COVID-19 because the two diseases have similarities. Ribas explained that the human body’s response to SARS-CoV-2 and cancer involves processes that need to reduce inflammation, as well as other immune responses that need to be increased. Therefore, Ribas said that many cancer researchers are re-researching and using cancer drugs to study their efficacy against COVID-19.

The loss of scientific research personnel
Before the pandemic, there were already distressing diversity issues in the scientific community. A report by the National Science Foundation found that in 2017, women accounted for less than 40% of the colleges of science, engineering, and health, and ethnic minorities accounted for 9%.

A study published in “Electronic Life” in June 2020 found that compared with the number of papers published in the same journal in 2019, the number of papers on COVID-19 written by women as the first author decreased by 19%. Women and their minorities were forced to leave the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics early in their scientific careers. They will undoubtedly suffer more losses due to the closure of the current laboratory. The responsibilities of family life have a particularly great impact on women. Parents who try to educate their children, manage housework and work at home will not have much time to advance their own scientific agenda. The COVID-19 crisis only highlights the diversity of research groups that plague scientific institutions, many of which begin with the loss of young people, women, and minorities in the early stages of the career.

Science is more humane
The biggest impact of COVID-19 may be its sober reminder that science is a human endeavor. When researchers are stressed out by lack of childcare or worry about the health of older family members, science suffers. When the progress of women and minorities encounters obstacles, science will miss key insights and perspectives. When science develops too fast and takes shortcuts, it may not produce practical treatments. But most importantly, the human side means that when we need to create cutting-edge knowledge and are faced with sudden unforeseen problems, the nature of the human spirit ensures that science will eventually win.