What’s Next? COVID-19 podcast: (Ep 26) Vivek Goel on understanding pandemic science

COVID-19 is being studied like no other disease in history, with hundreds of new research papers published every day – and the resulting headlines can lead to confusion, according to Vivek Goel.

“There has been intense public and media interest on individual studies, whether in preprints or in peer-reviewed journals,” says Goel, a professor at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health and a special adviser to the president and provost who is helping guide the university’s COVID-19 planning efforts.

“Some are later shown to be wrong … others are very good science but don't necessarily address the right clinical question. For example, an excellent piece of work showed that virus samples could survive for several days on inanimate surfaces, but that study did not show whether transmission of disease could take place through those means.”

In episode 26 of his podcast on the pandemic, Goel – a renowned public health expert and founding head of Public Health Ontario, which was set up in response to the 2003 SARS outbreak – talks about the importance of recognizing that science is neither linear nor simple, and that a single piece of research should not automatically lead to new policies been drafted.

“What's important is the synthesis that's done over time and the conclusions that are reached out of academic debate,” he says.

Read a Q&A with U of T’s Ross Upshur on our evolving understanding of COVID-19 science

The COVID-19: What’s Next podcast is created by Goel in collaboration with a University of Toronto Communications team led by producer Lisa Lightbourn.

Note: The information in this podcast is current as of the posting date. Listeners should consult their local public health agency for the latest information in their jurisdiction.

See a list of all the podcast episodes

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