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UB researchers, models in the media in a time of pandemic

Word cloud created after UB-related news which appeared on the media during the first month of lockdown.

Word cloud created after UB-related news which appeared on the media during the first month of lockdown.

29/04/2020

Institucional

The teaching staff of the UB has continued working with the media during the lockdown days, but they also provided knowledge and rigour to the information gathered by the media about the pandemic and its effects in several fields. The University of Barcelona continued to be a model for society during this time of crisis.

During the first month of lockdown, between March 14 and April 13, the UB recorded 3,500 impacts in the media, similar figures to the ones from previous months with presential activity. During these weeks of lockdown, the direct participation of UB researchers in printed press has been maintained, and this activity recorded, until April 23, 75 opinion articles signed by lecturers and researchers of the University, which is an average of two signed texts per day. However, although the presence in the media has been maintained, what changed radically were the themes to be treated, for which UB experts were asked about.

Multiple disciplines to analyze the crisis

The themes that prevailed in the appearance of UB experts in the media are those related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the health, social, economic and cultural crisis. UB researchers talked about research on the disease, its evolution and perspectives of its control and treatment. They also talked about the immediate contribution in the development of devices to fight the effects of coronavirus, such as new models of ventilators to give to the intensive care units in the health centers.

Since the beginning of the lockdown and until April 20, the Press Office of the UB has received about a hundred requests related to the health crisis, about the disease and the state of alarm announced by the Spanish Government plus the legal measures it involves, as well as sociological, economic, political, philosophic aspects related to the lockdown.

Epidemiologists

Despite the different themes on COVID-19, the “stars” of this crisis have been the epidemiologists, led by Antoni Trilla, current dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences of the UB, who was awarded two years ago the Doctors’ Senate and Board of Trustees Award to science dissemination and who is now member of the scientific committee assessing the Spanish Government on the pandemic health management. He was not the only one, others collaborated with the media, such as Àngela Domínguez and Antonio Plasencia, director of the Institut de Salut Global de Barcelona (ISGlobal).

Regarding virology, the lecturer of Biology and president of the Spanish Society of Virology, Albert Bosch, was the most distinguished researcher, as well as the dean of the Faculty of Biology, Rosa Gironès, and the researcher Jordi Serra Cobo, whose research is focused on the animal virus move to human species, specifically in this case from bats to humans.

Among the economists who gave a viewpoint to the management and economic effects of the crisis in the short, mid and long term, is the former rector Joan Tugores and the vice-dean of Economics and Business, Raúl Ramos. Also, in psychology, there are contributions by the lecturers Imma Armadans and Carmina Saldaña, who analyzed how to cope with the situation of lockdown and the pandemic the different sectors of the population.

Climatologists such as Javier Martín Vide explained the implications of he climate in this crisis, jurists such as Mar Aguilera and Argèlia Queralt valued how security and control measures have an impact on people’s freedom, and nutritionists like Carme Vidal gave advice on nutrition during these weeks when our routines have changed.

Moreover, experts on bioethics María Casado and Itziar de Lecuona (member of the working group advising the Ministry of Science and Innovation in COVID-19-related issues) have reflected on the priorization of patients in cases of emergency and on the limitation of means; historians like Àngel Casas talked about pandemics from the past, and experts in economic history like Marc Prat talked about past agreements to end situations of crisis, like the Pactos de la Moncloa.

An illustrative example of the communicative task of the UB researchers are the contributions to The Conversation, one of the world platforms for knowledge dissemination which gathers several articles by researchers from all Spanish universities which are later republished by the media. Since March 13, UB authors have published a total of eight articles, most of these related to COVID-19: ranging from how to face this lockdown to bioethical issues and the danger of new social stigma.

Although the COVID-10 took most of the attention from the media, other important studies by the UB have had a great impact in other fields. This is the case, for instance, of the study by the ICREA researcher João Zilhão, member of the Prehistoric Studies and Research Seminar (SERP), on Neanderthals’ fishing practices. The paper was published in Science and had a great international impact, including an article in The New York Times.

The media was also interested in the UB as the first institution of research and teaching in the country. The most requested issues were on how the academic year will end online, what will happen to the Erasmus program, and about the Connecta UB program to mitigate the digital gap among the students of the University, the presence of the UB in the virtual fair UNIferia and its reception from the students.

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