‘Visible’ but not yet ‘Celebrities’ The case of Indian Scientists during COVID19

Author: Siddharth Kankaria – National Centre for Biological Sciences, Bangalore. India

The advent of a global pandemic like COVID19 has pushed several scientists to rise to the challenge of communicating health, risk and scientific information about COVID19.

But unlike Antony Fauci in the US or Salim Abdool Karim in South Africa, no Indian scientist has quite acquired the status of a star scientist, or become synonymous with being the sole public authority on COVID19.

Instead, there seems to be a wide array of Indian scientists that have become highly ‘visible’1 but not quite acquired ‘celebrity’2 status. Many of them have become active within public collectives of scientists and scientific organisations that surfaced in 2020 to jointly engage in public communication of COVID19-related information.

My talk will examine a few case studies of such ‘visible’ but not yet ‘celebrity’ Indian scientists, and describe relevant features of their communication strategies during this global pandemic.

In the true spirit of Indian plurality, my talk also will discuss the implications of having such a wide diversity of ‘visible’ expertise for not only communicating COVID19-related information but also for fighting misinformation, ensuring public trust in science and engaging stakeholders in discussions about the process of science.

1 – Goodell, R., The Visible Scientists, Boston, MA: Little, Brown, 1977
2 – Fahy, D. & Lewenstein, B., Scientists in Popular Culture, Handbook of Public Communication of Science and Technology: 83-96, 2014

Presentation type: Individual paper
Theme: Transformation