Symposium: Evidence in Virulent Times. 17 May 2021

Symposium: Evidence in Virulent Times. 17 May 2021

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, negotiations about scientific evidence were intensifying in the public sphere. Climate policy and global warming scepticism, anti-vaccine movements, and radio frequency radiation health concerns have brought discussions about the credibility and interpretation of scientific inquiry to the forefront of political decision making and public debate. Evidence has thus clearly become an object of exchange in a trading zone between science, politics, and culture, to which the actors involved ascribe sometimes vastly different meanings.

With the spread of the novel coronavirus – whether it is about projections for the spread of disease and potential mortality, the proper government measures, their efficacy and side-effects, or about individual conduct – politicians, public officials, media, and private citizens have further accelerated the use of medical evidence in decision-making, in attempts to make sense of an unprecedented global crisis. Inevitably, struggles erupt over the selection, interpretation, and use of evidence.

Evidence is neither an easily obtained commodity nor a truth that reveals itself. Calls to simply “listen to the science” have become louder, but at the same time it has become increasingly clear that science itself does not speak – rather, human actors operating in a complex media landscape speak for, about, and to science. The intensification of this exchange during the COVID-19 pandemic represents a new role for medical evidence in the public sphere, but it is also part of a broader, longer trend around scientific evidence in general.

This presents a new need for researchers in science, medicine, humanities, and social sciences to communicate across disciplinary domains. A two-part interdisciplinary symposium will provide an opportunity for an exchange between social science, medicine, humanities, and natural sciences, which addresses the use and interpretation of evidence on all levels of society, from governance to everyday lives, including mainstream as well as fringe perceptions and positions, and reflection on the role of scientists in this landscape. Part two of this symposium will take place in autumn 2021.



17.00   Welcome and introduction

Prof. Dr. Mariacarla Gadebusch Bondio, Institute for Medical Humanities, Bonn, and Dr. Ylva Söderfeldt, Centre for Medical Humanities, Uppsala

Making sense of expert disagreement in the COVID-19 pandemics.

Fredrik Andersen (Faculty of Health and Welfare, Østfold University College) and Elena Rocca (School of Economics and Business, Norwegian University of Life Sciences)

Evidence generation for pharmacological and non-pharmacological COVID-19 interventions: Comments on uncertainty.

Cathrine Axfors (Meta-Research Innovation Center, Stanford University)

Sovereign lexicons: fragmentary images of a nation in official miscommunication.

Claudia Merli (Department of Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology, Uppsala University)

19.00 End


Registration via e-mail to Erika Sigvardsdotter, A zoom link will be provided to registered participants.