From Science-in-society (SiS) to Science with and for Society (SwafS) in epidemics & pandemics

There are times when science seems to be losing its connection to society and its needs, and its objectives are not fully understood, even if they are well intended. The lack of a common language on one hand and the rapid progress in many areas of research on another have increased the public's concern. It is also contributing to the ambivalence surrounding the role that science and technology are playing in everyday life. However, science and scientists cannot and should not work in isolation, and advances in science and technology are not an objective in their own right.

On 4 December 2001, the European Commission published a Communication setting out the Science and Society Action Plan, which was based on a staff working paper of November 2000, titled 'Science, Society and the Citizen in Europe'. These documents were followed by a resolution by MS research ministers to bring science and society closer, working both at national and EU level. Since 2002, every year the European Commission has committed resources into making science more attractive (notably to young people), raising the appetite of society for innovation, and opening up further research and innovation activities. A number of EU projects have been developed and realized in the Framework Programme (FP) 6 with budget of 80 million euros, expanding to 330 million euros in FP7. It continues into the Science with and for Societ (SwafS) and Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) themes in Horizon 2020 (2014-2020), which is a cross-cutting issue, with a budget of 462,2 million euros.            

SwafS, in particular as regards epidemics and pandemic,s is an extremely interesting although less developed area of Science in Society (SiS). In times of public health (PH) crises such as in the event of outbreaks, epidemics or pandemics, a number of SwafS issues may prove critical for the response and the control of an outbreak. The effect of a pathogen on a specific population or gender (e.g. pregnant women with A(H1N1)pdm09 or currently with Zika virus), priorities in immunization, or even the need to enforce quarantine in some cases, are only few of the scientific issues that need to be well understood by the society. This is essential in order to ensure compliance by the public and the successful control of an outbreak.

Within ASSET project, the current scientific paper series aims to present and discuss various such issues in the form of an open access scientific quarterly newsletter. Experts in the ASSET consortium as well as invited authors will describe in the form of short communications the various issues related to SiS and epidemics/pandemics.

Athena Linos
Professor, Medical School, University of Athens
Professor & Chair of Dept. of Hygiene, Epidemiology & Medical Statistics, Athens Medical School
President of the Institute of Preventive Medicine Environmental and Occupational Health, Prolepsis

DG- Research and Innovation, SWAFS

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
Engaging all of Europe in shaping a desirable and sustainable future
Expect the unexpected and know how to respond
Driving innovation in crisis management for European resilience
Effective communication in outbreak management: development of an evidence-based tool for Europe
Solutions to improve CBRNe resilience
Network for Communicable Disease Control in Southern Europe and Mediterranean Countries
Developing the framework for an epidemic forecast infrastructure
Strengthening of the national surveillance system for communicable diseases
Surveillance of vaccine preventable hepatitis
European monitoring of excess mortality for public health action
European network for highly infectious disease
Dedicated surveillance network for surveillance and control of vaccine preventable diseases in the EU
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
Addressing chronic diseases and healthy ageing across the life cycle
Medical ecosystem – personalized event-based surveillance
Studying the many and varied economic, social, legal and ethical aspects of the recent developments on the Internet, and their consequences for the individual and society at large
Get involved in the responsible marine research and innovation
Knowledge-based policy-making on issues involving science, technology and innovation, mainly based upon the practices in Parliamentary Technology Assessment
Assessment of the current pandemic preparedness and response tools, systems and practice at national, EU and global level in priority areas
Analysis of innovative public engagement tools and instruments for dynamic governance in the field of Science in Society
Public Engagement with Research And Research Engagement with Society
Computing Veracity – the Fourth Challenge of Big Data
Providing infrastructure, co-ordination and integration of existing clinical research networks on epidemics and pandemics
Promote vaccinations among migrant population in Europe
Creating mechanisms for effectively tackling the scientific and technology related challenges faced by society
Improve the quality of indoor air, keeping it free from radon
Improving respect of ethics principles and laws in research and innovation, in line with the evolution of technologies and societal concerns
Investigating how cities in the West securitise against global pandemics
Creating a structured dialogue and mutual learning with citizens and urban actors by setting up National Networks in 10 countries across Europe
Identifying how children can be change agents in the Science and Society relationship
Establishing an open dialogue between stakeholders concerning synthetic biology’s potential benefits and risks
Transparent communication in Epidemics: Learning Lessons from experience, delivering effective Messages, providing Evidence