Science showed its strength during pandemic, debate hears

Ljubljana, 24 March - The science community responded to the coronavirus pandemic rapidly, an online debate on the role of science during the pandemic heard on Wednesday. Hosted as part of the Jožef Stefan Days, an annual event of the country's leading research institution, the debate also heard calls for consistent funding of the field.

Boris Turk of the Jožef Stefan Institute (IJS), said he has never seen cooperation of such a wide scale. "A great number of research capacities from all over the world worked together."

He underlined that the rapid development of vaccines was only possible because mRNA vaccines were being developed before the pandemic. "Once you've developed the technology, you can use it in a different field very fast."

Alojz Ihan of the Institute for Microbiology and Immunology said science showed fascinating level of power during the pandemic. Cooperation is the most likely reason for a fast development of diagnostics and vaccines, but substantial funding also played a significant role, he said.

Ihan was critical of the pressure by the public and politicians on experts to make decision that are premature, like whether those who recovered from Covid-19 should receive only one dose of vaccine.

Jože Damijan of the Ljubljana Faculty of Economics believes the rapid response could be ascribed to the fact that vaccines would shorten the duration of non-pharmaceutical restrictions and lower the damage to the economy.

He also underlined the importance of constant funding for the field, underlining the science community would not have developed the vaccine as quickly if it had not been properly funded.

This cannot be achieved by private capital, as it is interested in fast and high yields. "Governments interested in helping innovation development and prosperity of their people do this purposefully and for the long term."

Tomaž Grušovnik of the Ljubljana Pedagogy Faculty expressed the belief it would be expected that the development of science would undermined conspiracy theories but it seems the opposite is true.

Aleks Jakulin of Covid Sledilnik tracker said the project showed how science could work in the digital world. He, however, criticised "the broad state apparatus" for failing to the potential of cooperation.

Sledilnik has expressed regret several times in the past over not having access to all of the data.