A Pandemic of Irrelevancy?

Debates over responses to the coronavirus pandemic are being driven by epidemiologists, physicians, economists, and elected politicians. Political scientists, in contrast, have been absent from policymaking and public discourse — as has been the historical pattern. An academic discipline that claims to advance a scientific understanding of politics regularly fails to communicate politically about science. A few possibly non-representative, but illustrative, examples:

The historical analysis of municipal public health interventions and epidemic intensity during the 1918 influenza pandemic, published in 2007 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA. The authors, who were profiled in Michael Lewis’s book The Premonition, were senior officials in several federal agencies.

Editorials (direct links here, here, here, here, and here) on pandemic policy written by former members of the President Biden’s White House transition team, published by the Journal of the American Medical Association on January 6 — and referenced in this New York Times article.

This essay by a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine about how universities are responding to the pandemic.

The common thread among the authors of the above? Not a political scientist among them. Perhaps the situation is different outside the USA. Or maybe I’m just engaging in confirmation bias. But I welcome suggestions on pandemic-related publications written by political scientists for the educated layperson. It’s a bit frustrating having to rely solely on authors from other fields when teaching undergraduates about public policy.

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