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22 May 2020

The important role of social scientists during the COVID-19 pandemic

Professor Jonathan Portes has called for the group advising the Government during the pandemic to be diverse in its backgrounds and expertise.

Media story on COVID-19 in London

Social scientists have an important role to play as we consider economics and epidemiology during the COVID-19 pandemic, said Professor Jonathan Portes.

In an article for the Campaign for Social Science, Professor Portes looked at the make up of the Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE) as well as what prominent commentators are saying about whether health or economic issues should be at the forefront of decision-making.

He suggested input on from sociologists and experts on public opinion, as well as virologists and statisticians, would be helpful to fully consider the economic implications, policy responses and public behaviours.

Professor Portes, of the Department of Political Economy, said economists can use their skills to help politicians and the public to ask the right questions. Social scientists need to play an important role through being honest about uncertainty, challenging individuals pushing their own agendas and using their skills to ensure politicians and the public are asking the right questions.

He suggested that all sciences and disciplines will be stronger and more useful by working together to analyse and address the current crisis, especially during this next critical phase.