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As a part of the ASSET project, the European Institute of Women’s Health were tasked with liaising with local schools to disseminate the activities of the ASSET project. The schools were to have received funding under the Erasmus Plus programme, which is the programme that combines all the EU’s current schemes for education, training, youth and sport in Europe.

Gender is considered a main issue in Horizon 2020, the largest ever EU Research and Innovation programme, with €80 billion worth of funding available over seven years. The European Commission has identified seven priority areas of societal challenges, with the goal targeting investment in research in these fields. They are:

As reported in the ASSET Strategic plan, the three Summer Schools on Science in Society related issues in Pandemics (2015, 2016, 2017) pose the main challenge of the collaborative project overall that is dealing with the intersectoral approach required by the management of Public Health Emergencies of International Concern (PHEIC), like epidemics and pandemics.

Some things just do not want to die. In public health, anti-vaccination movements keep sizzling debates, just as they did in the XIX century. At the same time,  the “deficit model” of science communication – the myth that the “public” is just ignorant and that it would support science, if spoon-fed information from the ivory tower – still haunts the relationship between health, science and the community, despite having been repeatedly debunked. The two zombies are more related than one could believe. Vaccine hesitancy and anti-vaccination movements grow in the cracks between trust and knowledge, and these are the fault lines that communication should heal – or rip apart, if it fails.

It is often said that sex and gender differences are perceived as overlooked in research design and in clinical trials, even those on vaccines. In 2010, the World Health Organisation (WHO) published the document Sex, gender and influenza, which states that many reports of influenza vaccination rates as well as the safety, efficacy and effectiveness of vaccines around the world do not disaggregate data by sex.

In front of low rates of immunization, many claim for compulsory vaccination, especially as far as healthcare workers are concerned. Their institutional role and ethical purpose is to take care of a subgroup of citizens particularly weak, because of their health conditions. This is always true, but even more when immunocompromised or frail patients, vulnerable to infections, are involved. All healthcare workers have therefore a moral duty not to hurt people they have to take care of, following the ancient principle “Primum non nocere”.

During the period between October and December 2016, we used our algorithm to find out the most relevant Twitter influencers about vaccines. We performed a multilevel study to categorize the accounts and to identify the most relevant hashtags.

We analysed 869 accounts and categorized 373 of them:

How many ways are there to communicate science in society today? New and promising communication opportunities are rising fast, thanks to different media: web, social networks, graphic journalism like the webcomic strip dedicated to the potential public health issue represented by Zika during the Olympic Games in Brazil 2016 and even a board game like Pandemic Legacy.

Effective science communication, especially when engaging with genuine two-way discussions with audiences, is quite a complex issue, and far from simple to study. Much of what works and what doesn’t is highly dependent on contingent factors, from what specifically is being communicated, to the social dynamics around the issues, to the political context in which the engagement occurs. This makes deriving general insights and lessons that can be applied across the board particularly challenging.

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MMLAP and other EU Projects

Health system analysis to support capacity development in response to the threat of pandemic influenza in Asia
Making society an active participant in water adaptation to global change
Public Participation in Developing a Common Framework for Assessment and Management of Sustainable Innovation
Effective communication in outbreak management: development of an evidence-based tool for Europe
Developing the framework for an epidemic forecast infrastructure
European monitoring of excess mortality for public health action
Modelling the spread of pandemic influenza and strategies for its containment and mitigation
Cost-effectiveness assessment of european influenza human pandemic alert and response strategies
Bridging the gap between science, stakeholders and policy makers
Promotion of immunization for health professionals in Europe
Towards inclusive research programming for sustainable food innovations
Medical ecosystem – personalized event-based surveillance
Public Engagement with Research And Research Engagement with Society
Computing Veracity – the Fourth Challenge of Big Data
Transparent communication in Epidemics: Learning Lessons from experience, delivering effective Messages, providing Evidence