So it’s been about a year since COVID-19 came onto the scene. Happy Coronaversary! What have we learned? More specifically, what lessons in science communication have we learned from COVID reporting in 2020?
Wait for Statistical Significance
Reporting on the side effects of the vaccine before they're shown to be statistical significance is sort of like taking a pregnancy test and declaring you're not pregnant after 30 seconds. You might want to wait the whole two minutes.
Focus on the Positivity Rate
The positivity rate is the number of positive tests divided by the total number taken.
Not all ratings are created equal. Positivity Rate? Important. Cable news ratings? Not so important.
Check for Peer Review
It sounds like something that sucked in high school, but it's a good thing in science!
Sometimes the media gets things wrong. That's okay if you cop to it later, especially in a pandemic. Myths spread like a virus, so nip it in the bud and print retractions.
Don’t play dumb
While you want to explain concepts clearly, don't assume your audience is dumb. For example, journalists were able to popularize the slogan "flatten the curve". They distilled a very nuanced scientific concept into one catchy slogan.
Don't spread fear just to get attention. If you have to monger something, monger love.