Duke Science & Society, more crucial than everA look back at 2020 - a year of challenges, adaptation, and relevance.
In the midst of a difficult and unusual year, Duke faculty, staff, and students in every school and department across campus learned to adapt and persevere in ways few of us have ever experienced before. Nonetheless, the rallying cry around campus has been largely unifying and Duke has risen to the occasion. While so much daily discussion centers on challenges and uncertainties, we take a moment to look at the progress brought about during – and in some cases because of – this difficult year.
We examined significant pandemic-related issues through our Coronavirus Conversations series
Our conversations covered challenge trials, the disparate effects of the pandemic on people of color, sex and socialization during a pandemic, and many more critical social and political issues. The virtual format allowed us to partner with like-minded organizations around the country and to expand our reach nationwide.
Our notable guests include Dr. Anthony Fauci, former FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf, and Durham Mayor Pro Tempore Jillian Johnson. Our regular partners include numerous departments across campus at Duke, the Harvard Petrie-Flom Center for Bioethics, the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, the Stanford Law Center for Law and the Biosciences, and the Yale School of Public Health.
Related Policy Briefs
- Information Sharing During an Epidemic
- Perfect Storms: Responding to Hurricanes While Addressing COVID-19
- Conducting Elections During the Pandemic
We edited a special pandemic issue of the Journal of Law and the Biosciences
We published reactions to a report on heritable human genome editing
We convened a multi-day meeting of world leaders in brain science
Committing to Diversity and Inclusion
Weeks of protests and calls for justice after the death of George Floyd sparked response across campus to move beyond rhetoric, to listen, to learn, and to act.
Over six years ago the Master of Arts in Bioethics & Science Policy was created in anticipation of the need for leaders who are trained to consider the ethical and policy implications of emerging science. Fields like neuroscience and genomics were already on track to fundamentally change the shape of society. While scientists were asking can we, Science & Society asked whether we should, and if so, how?
In 2018, we recognized the discussion could no longer be limited to science and we expanded our programming to include advances in technology. This past year we’ve seen first-hand the amplifying effects of social media, the power of facial recognition technology, and the influence algorithms have on what we see and hear. We continue to develop discussions and expertise on campus.
Our masters students sought solutions for pandemic-related social issues
Eight students graduated as Masters in Bioethics, Tech Ethics, and Science Policy. As part of their scholarly work, several graduates conducted research on the pandemic and studied the response in real-time. Michael Pflanzer, ’20, looked at models for decision-making in a pandemic response. Austin Odling, ’20, examined how Christian’s in America were handling the outbreak. And Dale Boyd explored precision medicine and how machine learning might be used to predict future pandemics.
Engaging Policymakers and the Public
We proposed solutions to some of the most pressing tech issues of the year.
Amid protests and the pandemic, lawmakers drew particular attention to antitrust law and Section 230 – a critical law that protects Internet companies from the actions of their users. The technology companies most criticized are inextricably woven into our daily lives and continue to transform the way we receive and digest information. The Center on Science & Technology Policy hired key staff to examine these issues and propose solutions.
Staying Together While Socially Distancing
We looked for ways to stay connected…
Each of us cope with the stresses of the past year in various ways. It turns out for many at Science & Society that includes baking! So, while we each work apart in our home offices, we stay connected with a little friendly competition inspired by the Great British Baking Show!