Coronavirus Conversations Hosted by Science & Society

Coronavirus Conversations

Coronavirus Conversations draw together experts from various fields to discuss the vast societal implications of the pandemic, how the situation is developing, and how we should plan for the future. Upcoming Conversations Join Our Mailing List

Coronavirus Conversations

A virtual event series from Duke Science & Society

The global pandemic affects every corner of society and brings into focus new and existing ethical and policy issues. Over the course of this event series notable researchers, lawmakers, and other experts will convene to discuss specific themes as they relate to the Coronavirus and how the U.S. and the world continues to respond.

This virtual event series is open to the public.
Press covering the coronavirus outbreak are welcome to attend.

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Upcoming Conversations

Ethics of the Use of Wearables For Early Covid Detection

Thursday, August 20, 4:00 PM (EDT)

Hosted by Duke Science & Society and Duke +Data Science


Wearable technology provides us with a rich data set that can enhance our understanding of and response to the COVID-19 pandemic. But the use of this data must come with ethical guard rails, which are easy to rush past in the attempt to tame the pandemic.

Join Duke+ DataScience and Duke Science & Society and our panel of technical and ethical experts to discuss the ethics of using data generated by wearable technology to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

(This Coronavirus Conversation accompanies a technical webinar on COVID+DS: The opportunity for wearables for early COVID detection.)


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Panelists :

Dr. Jessilyn Dunn,Ph.D., Georgia Institute of Technology; Assistant Professor, Department of Biomedical Engineering and Department of Biostatistics & Bioinformatics


Dr. Nita Farahany, J.D., PhD, Duke University; Director, Duke Initiative For Science & Society; Professor of Law and Philosophy, Duke University



The Science and Ethics of Human Challenge Trials For COVID-19

Monday, August 24, 4:00 PM (EDT)


Challenge Trials


Co-Hosted with The Petrie-Flom Center For Bioethics at Harvard University

Human challenge trials for COVID-19 offer an opportunity to speed the development of treatments and vaccines that can help tame the pandemic. But they are risky for participants, and pose thorny ethical questions. Even with willing volunteers, the scientific and medical communities must carefully weigh the risks before launching any human challenge trials, and put strong ethical safeguards in place.

Join Duke Science & Society and our panel of experts in a discussion of the science, promise, and risks of human challenge trials, how they might play a role in bringing an end to the coronavirus pandemic, and how to legally and ethically do so.

Panelists :

Dr. Marc Lipstich,Harvard School of Public Health, Department of Epidemiology & Department of Immunology and Infectious Disease; Director, Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics

Dr. Nir Eyal, Rutgers University, Henry Rutgers Professor of Bioethics; Director of The Center for Population-Level Bioethics (CPLB); Department of Health Behavior, Society, and Policy


Kim Krawiec, J.D. Duke University School of Law, Kathrine Robinson Everett Professor of Law



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Past Events


Ethics of AI and Image Analysis in COVID-19 Treatment

Thursday July 30, 4:00 PM (EDT)

Hosted by Duke Science & Society and Duke +Data Science


Medical image analysis with machine learning holds immense promise for accelerating the radiology workflow and benefiting patient care for COVID-19. Given the level of training and work involved in manually inspecting chest CT scans, there is significant interest in developing machine learning models that can automatically interpret chest CT images, including for COVID-19 patients.  However, the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) in radiological imaging is relatively new, and codes of ethics and practice for use of AI in imaging are just now being contemplated by the medical community. This means that, in the effort to use AI to process radiological images for COVID-19 patients, decisions about how to acquire and curate the data and train the algorithms must be made in real time.

Join Duke+ DataScience and Duke Science & Society and our panel of technical and ethical experts to discuss the ethics of using machine learning and AI to process radiological images for COVID-19 patients.

(This Coronavirus Conversation accompanies two technical webinars on COVID+DS: Analysis of chest CT imaging data and connection to COVID diagnosis, and PyTorch for image analysis with deep learning.)


Return to Work: Protecting Workers’ Health During a Pandemic

Thursday July 9, 2:30 PM (EDT)

Co-Sponsored by The Duke Global Health Institute, The Center for Innovation Policy At Duke Law School,and The Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics at Harvard Law School

Across the US, employers are taking steps to bring non-essential employees back into the workplace after shutdowns in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is easier said than done, as employers encounter logistical hurdles in planning a safe return to work, and coronavirus infection rates spike around the country. To enable a successful return to work, employers must proceed based on the science of how the virus spreads in different work environments, using policies, practices, and procedures carefully crafted to protect worker safety.

Join Duke Science & Society and our panel of experts in a discussion on the risks of spreading COVID-19 in the workplace, how best to protect employee health, and how to balance worker safety against personal freedoms.


Event Recording & Details


Perfect Storms: Responding to Hurricanes While Addressing Covid-19

Wednesday, July 1, 2:30 PM

As the US approaches the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season, multiple long-term forecasts have predicted an unusually high number of hurricanes. If a hurricane strikes the US, actions taken in preparation and response will have to take COVID-19 into account. Local, state, and federal governments, as well as NGOs and individuals, must plan now for how to adequately respond to the potential for the impact of a major hurricane while also minimizing risks from COVID-19—especially for vulnerable populations who are most at risk both from COVID-19 and the effects of a landfalling hurricane.


Event Recording & Details Read the Policy Brief


Coronavirus Conversations: Conducting Elections During The Pandemic

Friday, June 26, 2:30 PM

COVID-19 presents major challenges for the US election process. Measures necessary to protect the public and prevent the spread of the virus, like shelter-in-place orders, quarantine and self-isolation, and fear of infection will keep many Americans away from polling places in the fall. In-person voters must navigate lines and indoor voting locations that traditionally place people in close proximity, and interact with high-touch surfaces, to exercise their right to vote. Poll workers, who are traditionally older and therefore more at risk, are now in short supply. The act of voting itself has the ability to spark new rounds of contagion. Constructive policy solutions are needed to protect public health and the right to vote, especially for members of minority and lower socio-economic groups, who have already been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.


Event Recording & Details Read the Policy Brief


Coronavirus Conversations: Behind COVID-19: The Disease, The Effects, And The Treatments

Friday, June 5, 12:30 PM

If you read the news about COVID-19 enough you may start to get confused about what exactly the disease is. What are the symptoms? What is the difference between mild and severe cases? What happens to the body when COVID-19 develops? What are the the treatments and are they effective? It can be difficult to know what information is accurate as more disinformation from bad actors takes hold of social media.

Join Duke Science & Society Director Nita Farahany as she talks with Dr. Cameron Wolfe – an infections disease specialist and leader of the Duke Remdesivir trial – as we demystify COVID-19 and learn about the disease causing global panic.


Event Recording & Details


Coronavirus Conversations: How The Electric Power Sector is Weathering The Pandemic

Co-Hosted by: The Nicholas Institute For Environmental Policy Solutions and The Duke University Energy Initiative

Monday. June 1, 12:30 PM

The electric power sector is facing major operational challenges as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Traditional fossil-fuel fired electric power plants have taken extraordinary steps to maintain staff availability in the shadow of contagion. Still, in late March, the EPA suspended enforcement of much of its air and water discharge requirements for electric power facilities unable to comply due to COVID-19-related staffing concerns. At the same time, distributed energy saw over 15% of its workforce furloughed, and new installations slowed or stopped, due to stay-at-home orders.

Join Duke Science & Society and a panel of Duke University and industry experts as they discuss how the electric power sector is weathering these challenges—and what the impact might be for the energy transition.

Hosted by The Duke University Initiative for Science and Society, The Duke University Energy Initiative, and the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.


Event Recording & Details


Coronavirus Conversations: The COVID-19 Pandemic Narrative – What Stories Do We Tell?

This event is co-hosted by the Duke Center on Risk.

Thursday, May 28, 12:30 PM

How society talks about an infectious disease has serious consequences. The so-called “outbreak narrative” of a particular contagion will affect exposure pathways, infection rates, mitigation options, and economic impacts. It can also lead to the stigmatization of particular individuals, groups, locales, behaviors, or lifestyles. How should we understand the level of concern and captivation elicited by the coronavirus as reflected in government decisions, public messaging, and social and mainstream media? Have these responses been commensurate with the actual risks? Has the narrative around coronavirus followed a storyline similar to past contagions?  How has culture, including popular science, fiction, and film affected the public’s perception of the current situation? What is the basis for the many conspiracy theories and “alternative facts” that have emerged? Our panel seeks to explore how the stories we tell about this virus and its risks are at the root of how we are all living our lives at the moment.

Join Duke Science & Society and our panel of experts to discuss how we tell the story of the COVID-19 pandemic and why the language we use and the stories we tell matter.


Event Recording & Details


Coronavirus Conversations: Surviving & Thriving As A STEM Graduate Student During The Pandemic

Co-hosted by The Duke University Graduate School.

Friday. May 22, 1:00 PM

Being a graduate student in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) discipline is always challenging and stressful.  How do the stresses and challenges increase during a pandemic, when students abruptly find themselves unable to go into their lab or do their field work?  How can graduate students adapt to these additional challenges, and what can advisors and graduate schools do to support them during these challenging times?  Are new opportunities for STEM graduate students arising during the pandemic, and if so, how can grad students take advantage of these opportunities?

Join Duke Science & Society as we discuss the unique challenges of STEM graduate school work during a global pandemic.


Event Recording & Details


Coronavirus Conversations: Immigration and The Pandemic

Co-Sponsored by The Duke University School Of Law.

Wednesday, May 12, 12:30 PM

As the current coronavirus pandemic continues to spread through multiple, interconnected societies, U.S. immigration policy has become both a political and epidemiological question. Immigrant detention, asylum, and labor policies are now critical matters of public health as cases of COVID-19 accelerate in relation to immigration enforcement and low-wage employment. Additionally, the pandemic is taking place in a national context in which contemporary health, welfare, and immigration reforms increasingly exclude noncitizens. What does this policy environment mean for global efforts to contain the pandemic, and how might the U.S. best adapt its immigration approach to prioritize public health during this moment of crisis?

Join Duke Science & Society and our panel of experts to discuss how U.S. immigration policies relate to the coronavirus pandemic, the specific risks immigrants and immigrant communities may be facing during this time, and what kinds of policy changes may be necessary to reduce its public health impact.


Event Recording & Details


Coronavirus Conversations: Coronavirus & Mental Health

Coping Through The Pandemic

Friday, May 8, 2:00 PM

Vulnerable populations are hit particularly hard by public emergencies, and with many people out of work, stuck at home, and fearful of infection, the unaddressed mental health needs in our country are rising to the surface. In tandem with that rise people are struggling to get care for existing mental health concerns as clinicians and non-profits are stretched thin trying to provide for their patients and communities while also trying to stay healthy and safe themselves. As the lockdown continues and the economic fallout from the pandemic worsens, these problems will only become worse.

Join Duke Science & Society and our panel of experts to discuss what the mental health care landscape looks like right now, what we can be doing right now to improve mental health care outcomes, and how we prepare for the growth in cases we may see after we return to a “new normal.”

Event Recording & Details

Coronavirus Conversations: Coronavirus And The Wealth Gap

Pandemics And Poverty

Co-Sponsored by The Sanford School of Public Policy

Wednesday, May 6, 12:30 PM

Communities of color, immigrant communities, and low-income communities often feel the negative effects of societal crises’ more acutely than the rest of society and Coronavirus has been no exception. Many low-income people in the United States do not have the ability to stay at home and many work in positions that may make it difficult or impossible to social distance. Additionally, lack of access to healthcare before the pandemic makes it more likely that these communities have comorbidities that put them at greater risk for infection and serious complications.

Join Duke Science & Society and our panel of experts to discuss what is being done to help underserved communities, what policy decisions have led to this problem, and what choices we need to make after the pandemic to protect the most at-risk populations.

Read The Kaiser Family Foundation white paper on the subject: Higher COVID-19 Incidence in Minority Communities 


Event Recording & Details


Coronavirus Conversations: Are We Doing Enough? Federal & International Response

This event is being co-sponsored by the Duke Sanford School of Public Policy.

Friday, May 1, 12:30 PM

For the past several months, we have watched the response to the Coronavirus around the world. Shut downs and stay-at-home orders are the new normal for much of the world as the international community struggles to defeat the pandemic. As politicians across the world begin to discuss re-opening the shuttered global economy, experts continue to warn that we must take the re-opening of society slowly. Join Duke Science & Society, and our expert panel, to discuss the response to the Coronavirus pandemic at a federal and international level. What countries have been the most effective at keeping the spread of the virus in check? What countries are not doing enough? What is being done by NGO’s, charities, and other international groups to fight the pandemic? What is the right approach to resuming normal life? What will our new “normal life” look like?


Event Recording & Details


Coronavirus Conversations: Duke In Durham: A Coordinated Pandemic Response

Friday April 24, 12:00 PM

City governments are fighting on the frontline of the Coronavirus Pandemic. As local businesses shut down and greater numbers of people are in need of public assistance, cities and states are moving fast to figure out how to support their citizens in this difficult time. Local government officials are working to find the difficult balance between social distancing, stay-at-home orders, and planning to help local economies recover once the pandemic ends. Likewise, institutions of higher education are struggling to balance the health and safety of faculty, staff, and students, with the need to provide educational instruction, vital research, and healthcare services. How have these local institutions worked together to ensure a coordinated response to the Coronavirus pandemic?


Event Recording & Details


Coronavirus Conversations: Coronavirus And The Military

Monday, April 20, 12:30 PM

Recent reports have highlighted the unique challenges the pandemic poses for our nation’s military. News of infections on U.S. Navy ships and of a VA Healthcare System stretched even thinner raise concern for those in service to our country. How are military leaders protecting and supporting military personnel, veterans, and their families while preserving the readiness of the United States Armed Forces? How do their decisions differ from those made for civilians?

Join Duke Science & Society and our expert panel as we discuss the effect of the current global public health crisis on military readiness, veterans healthcare, and military families.


Event Recording & Details


Coronavirus Conversations: Beauty In Crisis: Art During And After The Pandemic

Thursday, April 16, 12:30 PM

With social distancing and stay-at-home orders closing public places in many countries people across the globe can now longer enjoy art museums, galleries, symphonies, live theatre, and many other arts institutions. Artists and arts organizations continue to struggle to virtualize their programs both to provide art to the public and to stay financially viable in order to resume their work after the pandemic has ended. At the same time, people stuck at home crave the opportunity to enjoy art in order to soothe and comfort them in these trying times. Join Duke Science and Society as we discuss with artists and scholars the importance of art during this time of societal upheaval, what we can learn from history about art created during times of crisis, and what art will look like after the pandemic.


Event Recording & Details


Coronavirus Conversations: Rationing, Shortages, and Triage: Pandemics and Medical Decision Making

Monday, April 13, 12:30 PM

As updates pour in from the hardest hit areas in New York, Detroit, and across Europe the news is filled with stories of respirator shortages, inadequate PPE, and a coming peak that will stretch medical resources even further. In times like these doctors, nurses, and administrators are being forced to make tough decisions. When supplies run out, medical personnel must make difficult decisions to decide who will receive what treatment and how that treatment should be rationed. In the next installment of our Coronavirus Conversations we will be discussing these critical care decisions and how tough choices are being made everyday in hospitals everywhere.


Event Recording & Details


Coronavirus Conversations: Science Communication in the Time of Coronavirus

Friday, April 10, 1:00 PM

During an unprecedented time, when virtually all science communication seems to be focusing on the Coronavirus pandemic and lives literally hang in the balance, effective science communication is more important than ever. What sources should you trust? How much of the current information is accurate and being effectively communicated? How can scientists and science communicators ensure that “good” science is communicated, while combating the spread of “bad” information? Why does public trust of expertise seem to be so severely challenged right now? What roles do social media play? Join us for a discussion with a panel of renowned experts in science journalism, science writing and science communication research, who will answer these questions and others you have about science communication in the time of Coronavirus.


Event Recording & Details


Coronavirus Conversations: Information Sharing During An Epidemic

Thursday, April 2, 12:30 PM

As the world struggles to contain the economic, political, social, and health impacts of the COVID-19 virus, it is also wrestling with how both online censorship and the open internet have helped the spread of the virus. Social media and other digital platforms provide critical opportunities outside of official channels to share accurate information about emerging diseases. However, these online platforms have also facilitated the spread of misleading information about the coronavirus. While international health authorities, governments and social media companies are engaged in efforts to combat it, they are struggling to keep up.

Read more about digital epidemiology in this interview with Roll Call.

Event Recording & Details