This is a past event. For more events from the Ri, check out What's on

Covid-19: science communication and public trust

Join a panel of experts who will discuss the unprecedented, and politically charged, way in which new information and science has unfolded in real time

Event description

The Covid-19 pandemic bought science to the forefront of news and public perception. As the crisis moves into the next phase with new variants of concern spreading and a very uneven  global rollout of vaccines, these issues take on a new urgency.

Join Philip Ball, Christina Pagel, Julia Pearce, Anjana Ahuja and Susan Michie as they explore how public trust in government, healthcare authorities and scientists has fared and how well the science of the pandemic was presented by the media, politicians, and scientists themselves.

In this talk, this panel of experts will discuss the unprecedented and politically charged way in which new information and science has unfolded in front of the public in real time with all its uncertainties, controversies and provisional nature.


These online events are free for everyone to access. However, donations are an extremely important source of support for us and we would be most grateful if you are able to contribute. We are a small, independent charity and receive no government funding.  Our income from ticket sales and venue hire has been significantly reduced and will continue to fall. Donations, alongside our membership subscriptions are vital to our development and survival.

Please donate via our JustGiving page. Every donation we receive makes a difference. Thank you for your support.

About the speakers

Christina Pagel is professor of operational research at University College London. She has a background in both mathematics and physics, with an undergraduate degree in maths and a PhD in space physics. After three years as a post-doctoral physicist in Boston, she decided to make the transition into operational research applied to health care and joined the UCL Clinical Operational Research Unit (CORU) in late 2005. In 2008, she was promoted to the position of Senior Research Fellow and began leading CORU's work on global health. In October 2017 she became Director of CORU and in October 2018 she was promoted to Professor of Operational Research. She currently spends 1 day a week based as a "researcher in residence" within the critical care units at Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Christina joined the Independent SAGE committee, whose aim is to offer independent advice to the UK Government during the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of her work for Independent SAGE, she has been quoted in several newspapers, appeared on sevaral news channels and various podcasts discussing the UK's response to the pandemic.

Julia Pearce is Senior Lecturer in Social Psychology and Security Studies in the Department of War Studies. Her research interests include risk perception, risk and crisis communication, social identity, health security and terrorism. Specifically, she is interested in the impact of perceived moral, cultural and health threats on behaviour.

The greater part of her research assesses psychological and behavioural responses to low-likelihood, high impact, extreme events such as chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear (CBRN) terrorism and marauding terrorist firearms attacks.  This research has (i) challenged assumptions about public panic by providing evidence to suggest that under-response can be as problematic as over-response during a crisis, and (ii) demonstrated the importance of communicating with members of the public before, during and after extreme events.

Anjana Ahuja is a freelance science writer and commentator with 22 years’ experience of working for the UK national media. She is a contributing Writer on science for the Financial Times, and also write features and comment for such publications as the Daily Telegraph, Prospect, Radio Times and New Scientist.Anjana has a degree in physics and a PhD in space physics from Imperial College London. I have a postgraduate diploma in newspaper journalism from City University, London.  

Susan Michie is Professor of Health Psychology and Director of the Centre for Behaviour Change at University College London. She is co-Director of NIHR’s Behavioural Science Policy Research Unit, leads UCL’s membership of NIHR’s School of Public Health Research and is an NIHR Senior Investigator.

Susan’s research focuses on behaviour change in relation to health and the environment: how to understand it theoretically and apply theory to intervention development, evaluation and implementation.. Her research, collaborating with disciplines such as information science, environmental science, computer science and medicine, covers population, organisational and individual level interventions. Examples include the Human Behaviour-Change Project and Complex Systems for Sustainability and Health. She is an investigator on three Covid-19 research projects.

Philip Ball is a freelance science writer. He worked previously at Nature for over 20 years, first as an editor for physical sciences (for which his brief extended from biochemistry to quantum physics and materials science) and then as a Consultant Editor. His writings on science for the popular press have covered topical issues ranging from cosmology to the future of molecular biology.


The live stream will go live at 6.55pm, and the introduction will begin at 7.00pm. If you register but miss the live stream, the video will be available to you via the same link for up to a week after the event date.