Communicating Science at the time of COVID-19 Pandemic

Narottam Sahoo

IMG

The COVID-19 pandemic is testing our entire society. There is a greater role and urgent need of science communication to help society and citizens during this crisis. The National Council on Science & Technology Communication (NCSTC) in collaboration with Gujarat Council on Science & Technology (GUJCOST) and Gujarat Science City organized a webinar on Science Communication in the time of COVID-19 during 10-16 May 2020.

Highlighting the importance of science communication, Dr Manoj K. Patariya, Advisor and Head, NCSTC, said that when times are uncertain, science is more vital than ever. He talked about risk management and risk communication and the importance of our traditional art forms, stories and folk culture in outreach activities. He also informed about the year-long programme of NSCTC, Year of Awareness on Science & Health (YASH) in the context of COVID-19 with focus on health and risk communication. 

Dr Debapriya Dutta, Advisor and Head, Science for Equity, Empowerment and Development (SEED) and State S&T Councils Program (SSTP), Dept of Science & Technology, emphasised that one should be alert and follow government guidelines to win the war with corona. He highlighted Indian innovations during this time like antimicrobial fabric, electrostatic face masks, UV-C disinfectant system, 3D-printed face shield, smart stethoscope, robot, foot-operated water tap, drone disinfectant, road sanitization unit, disinfection pathway, and others.

Prof. Man Singh, Dean of Chemical Sciences, Central University of Gujarat, Gandhinagar informed about his innovation of an organic sanitizer, which can sanitize fruits and vegetables without harming their nutritious value. 

Prof. C.G. Joshi, Director, Gujarat Biotechnology Research Centre (GBRC), Dept of Science & Technology, Govt of Gujarat said that sequence data are essential to design and evaluate diagnostic tests, to track and trace the ongoing outbreak, and to identify potential intervention options. According to him, a total of nine mutations of coronavirus were found during the sequencing out of which six were reported elsewhere in the world.

As people stopped commuting and travelling, and establishments and factories are closed, the Earth’s surface vibrated less and seismologists tracked the change and noticed the seismic silence, explained Dr M. Ravi Kumar, Director General, Institute of Seismological Research (ISR), Dept of Science & Technology, Govt of Gujarat. He further explained that there is an enhanced ability to ‘listen’ to brewing volcanoes and chatter in seismically active regions and detect precursory changes in the Earth’s interior. 

Dr Kannan Srinivasan, Director, CSIR-Central Salt and Marine Chemicals Research Institute (CSMCRI), Bhavnagar discussed about the efforts of CSMCRI Bhavnagar to fight against COVID-19 with some innovative solutions and deliverables. The Institute has come up with two Personal Protection Equipment (PPEs) – membrane-based facemask and a light-weight face shield. This special mask made using membrane technology can give enhanced protection from pathogens, including virus and bacteria. The mask can kill the virus and bacteria that get attached on the outer surface, which is made from a special material called modified polysulfone. He also talked about other CSIR innovations like paper strip test kits, ventilators, road disinfection units, touch-free hand-wash and sanitizer dispenser, face shields, etc. 

Learning to live with the virus was an exciting session by Dr B.K. Tyagi, Scientist F, Vigyan Prasar. He gave a brief genesis of the past pandemics and the quest for developing appropriate medical treatment and vaccines. He said people need to make COVID-19 prevention guidelines a part of their lives. He stressed on the importance of wildlife conservation and emphasized that loss of biodiversity and climate change will lead to the transfer of pathogens (especially viruses) from wildlife to humans. He said everybody should adopt new ways of living with the virus including travel restrictions, promoting telemedicine and other online procedures, encouraging work from home culture, online classes for schools and colleges, avoiding huge recreational events, frequent hand washing, social distancing, wearing mask and avoiding crowded places.


Dr Narottam Sahoo is Advisor & Member Secretary, Gujarat Council on Science & Technology, Block B, 7th Floor, M S Building, Sector 11, Gandhinagar-382011, Gujarat. Email: narottam.sahoo@gmail.com