During this Coronavirus pandemic, We often hear it said that we should 'follow the science'. That, of course, is better than simply dipping your finger in the air to test the humidity! But can the science work fast enough to inform debate when it comes to the difficult decisions to be made by politicians?
The answer is that it cannot.
The problem is that science works through a long process of experimentation or data acquisition, writing of papers, which then go through a peer review before being published. Cutting short any of this process weakens the strength of the science.
With the Covid-19 pandemic, events are occurring faster than science can function. What then happens is mostly speculation based on judgement, whether by specialists or not. Epidemiologists, virologists etc. are called upon to give their view on what is likely to happen. Few of them stress the problem that science doesn't work that way.
We all either feel in the dark, or that the government isn't giving us sufficient information, or we simply choose which particular strain of idea is trending. So we end up with assertions ranging from 'it isn't as bad as they say it is' or 'there is a conspiracy' to 'millions will die'.
I don't find the information available from any government source here in the UK to be particularly useful. That may be true across the globe.
So where do we get our information from? Sadly, many are getting information from a source that is a little better than rumour and hearsay - social media.
It would be advisable for governments to think through how they handle the dissemination of information in such circumstances.