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But even triumphs come with an opportunity cost. Today, we're taking a moment to reflect on four ways science has not benefited from this singular focus, as explained by Ed. (His piece is worth reading in full.)
1. Halting research on other topics
Long-term studies that monitored bird migrations or the changing climate will forever have holes in their data because field research had to be canceled … Even research on other infectious diseases was back-burnered.
2. So-called epistemic trespassing
While the most qualified experts became quickly immersed in the pandemic response, others were stuck at home looking for ways to contribute … Often, they made things worse by swerving out of their scholarly lanes and plowing into unfamiliar territory.
3. An overfocus on “silver bullets”
Simple acts like wearing a mask and staying at home, which rely on people tolerating discomfort for the collective good, became society’s main defenses against the virus in the many months without effective drugs or vaccines. These are known as nonpharmaceutical interventions—a name that betrays medicine’s biological bias. For most of 2020, these were the only interventions on offer, but they were nonetheless defined in opposition to the more highly prized drugs and vaccines.
4. Widening inequalities
Women’s research hours fell by nine percentage points more than did men’s because of the pressures of COVID‑19. And when COVID‑19 created new opportunities, men grabbed them more quickly …
American scientists of color also found it harder to pivot than their white peers, because of unique challenges that sapped their time and energy.
One question, answered: The first vaccines are out in the world. So who gets them first? When can the general public expect to be vaccinated?