In the name of urban growth Mexico City officials have approved “self-devouring” infrastructure projects, displacing and endangering residents and threatening…
This contribution to the “Policy Models in Pandemic” theme, part of the “Covid-19 and the Social Sciences” series, by Jessica Ho, explores the use and relevance of life expectancy models. As the death toll resulting from Covid-19 rises, this essay turns an eye toward understanding these models and how sensitive they are to sudden shocks. In doing so, Ho suggests that researchers need to recognize the strengths and limitations of data produced from these models in the short-term, and also appreciate the crucial role such models will play in understanding the evolution of population health in the long term.
In this inaugural “Policy Models in Pandemic” essay, part of the “Covid-19 and the Social Sciences” series, Michael Feuer broadly explains mathematical and theoretical models. Recent media coverage has brought the concept of “models” to the fore, as ways to predict and understand the spread of Covid-19. Feuer shows that models are fundamentally representations of complex phenomena, aimed at guiding rational action or providing useful information to decision makers. Since public policy and public health decisions are often made based on information from mathematical and theoretical models, he suggests it prudent to review the origins, purposes, benefits, and inherent imperfections of these models as well as their value.
In this “Covid-19 and the Social Sciences” essay, Julia Lynch asks how social inequality affects government’s ability to deal with the Covid-19 crisis. She argues that social inequality makes pandemics more severe not just for the most vulnerable, but for the whole of society. Lynch notes that many of the preexisting conditions that increase the severity of Covid-19—medical and not—are consequences of social inequality and that this same inequality will likely prolong the pandemic. She insists that additional income support and personal protective equipment guarantees in the short term, as well as a more equal distribution of income in the long term, are required to mitigate social inequality, lowering society’s vulnerability to a global pandemic like Covid-19.
In this contribution to the “Covid-19 and the Social Sciences” series, Patricia Fernández-Kelly connects the killing of George Floyd, and the powerful public responses to it, to both the current social conditions of the pandemic and the broader historical structural dimensions of racism in US society. Fernández-Kelly draws on a range of sociological perspectives to shed light on what she calls the “proximate and deep-seated causes” of both violence directed at African Americans and the wave of protests of recent weeks.
Contributing to the “Covid-19 and the Social Sciences” essay series, Oscar Abedi, Maria Eriksson Baaz, David Mwambari, Swati Parashar, Anju Oseema Maria Toppo, and James Vincent outline various paths toward reducing field research’s potential for exploitation, especially that of Global South collaborators. The pandemic has highlighted inequalities and immobility that differently affect facilitating researchers and contracting researchers. In response, the authors identify key issues that institutions, publishers, and individual researchers must reflect on in order to counteract these imbalances—and take advantage of an opportunity to fundamentally transform field research into collaborative knowledge production.
Continuing the “Disaster Studies” theme of the “Covid-19 and the Social Sciences” series, Stephanie Russo Carroll, Desi Rodriguez-Lonebear, Randy Akee, Annita Lucchesi, and Jennifer Rai Richards demonstrate the need to understand the role of data as a mechanism of both oppression and liberation. In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, Indigenous Peoples are working to gain control of their tribal data to combat the erasure of their communities, and to advance data sovereignty. Through this work in the short-term, the authors describe how control over their own data will support access to needed resources in response to the pandemic. In the longer term, data sovereignty will help advance systemic change, and contribute to the larger goal of dismantling racism.
In this “Covid-19 and the Social Sciences” essay, Domingo Morel investigates the relationship between the Covid-19 crisis, social inequality in the United States, and public schools. He argues that certain education reform movements in recent history have left public schools, which disproportionately serve low-income communities of color, particularly vulnerable to a global pandemic. Morel finds that efforts to “reimagine” public education in this moment are not attentive to the needs of these vulnerable schools and communities. He asserts that this is a violation of the equal right to education that should be guaranteed in a democratic society.
Writing for our “Covid-19 and the Social Sciences” series, Shobana Shankar reflects on how the pandemic has thrown into question basic assumptions that emotions impede knowledge-creation and dissemination. She explores instead how we might consider how emotions and their manipulation are part of social norms, including norms of scholarly work; and how the disclosure of emotions that affect our perception and presentation of research, along with privilege and positionality, is the new ethical turn in a landscape of research insecurity.