Science and society repeatedly have problems understanding one another and entering into a functioning dialogue.

One who works and thinks at this intersection is science journalist Ranga Yogeshwar.

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ZEIT ONLINE:

If we look back on the last six months: Where did the communication between science and society go well, where could it have gone better, Mr. Yogeshwar?


Ranga Yogeshwar:

I think the key point is not to talk about "the" communication.

Today, with the restructuring of the media landscape and social networks, there are many communication flows, so we have to look at the individual channels.

There are great examples where communication has worked very well, for example Christian Drosten's podcast.

Conveys scientific findings in a reasonably understandable way, and in a transparent, honest way.

But at the same time there are also completely different communication channels, which for example lead to

a book at number one

on the

Spiegel

bestseller list in which the dangers of Covid-19 are played down (

The book "Corona False Alarm?" By Sukharit Bhakdi and Karina Reiß , Editor's note

).

The problem is that these streams no longer communicate with one another.

There is a polarization that is then shown in demos against the measures to contain the corona pandemic, which also include many insecure people.


ZEIT ONLINE:

Will it soon be even more difficult to convey the need for containment measures after the easing?

Yogeshwar:

None of us want the reintroduction of stricter measures.

But if we got a corona situation in Germany like in northern Italy in March, then nobody would discuss it anymore.

The usefulness of the fire brigade becomes clear when there is a fire.

We invest in them, and when things don't burn for a year, someone begins to doubt that they even need them.

It's like with many ventilators that have been bought and not used before.


ZEIT ONLINE:

Don't we need more smoke detectors first?

Yogeshwar:

We need smart strategies when it comes to testing.

Masks are proving to be a very useful protection against transmission by aerosols and droplets, and not only with regard to the new coronavirus - they could be a reason why there are fewer people with the flu.

The big task of the next few months will be to think about how we want to deal with risks.

In the worst case, we oust

We know about the risk but don't care.

Just as we are now forgetting what the working conditions are like in the meat industry while we are enjoying our steak meal.

ZEIT ONLINE:

Are we just not able to act prudently in the long term?

Yogeshwar:

At the beginning of the year we were able to observe very nicely how mature and sensible this country has reacted.

The contact restrictions did not come until the end of March, but before that there had already been a change in mobility behavior. Mobility already fell drastically before official contact restrictions were imposed.

We are more hardened, no longer believe what we are shown.

ZEIT ONLINE:

But can we continue to rely on this common sense of the population?

Yogeshwar:

We still have to prevent it from spreading widely, and Germany managed that well back then.

Only: We have comparatively few deaths to complain about.

Our problem now is that we are doing quite well.

Nobody in northern Italy or Great Britain is discussing the usefulness of mouth and nose coverings today.

For us, the Covid-19 issue seems abstract, people reject measures if they cannot see the direct advantage of it - this works like vaccination skepticism.

ZEIT ONLINE:

Do we have to be personally affected in spite of the wide media coverage in order to take risks seriously?

Yogeshwar:

When I was a child in India, I saw the consequences of not being vaccinated.

People with polio were paralyzed in wheelchairs and the question was simple: Do you want to live like them or get vaccinated?

Today we hardly see people in this country who suffer from diseases for which there are vaccines.

People then think that the danger is not there.

This creates vaccine skepticism.

Personal experience has a special and inexplicable strength. Perhaps we distrust the media, just as we now no longer trust advertising.

We are more hardened, no longer believe what we are shown.

In this way, however, the real facts no longer reach us.