Naming without shaming: A virus communication conundrum

We have all heard about the Kent strain of the coronavirus, or the UK or English strain for that matter, or the South African strain, or the Brazilian strain, not to forget the despicable references to the China or Wuhan virus by a former president of the United States. It’s good that we know about …

Mutation, vaccination, communication

It is extremely difficult to keep up with pandemic news at the moment. We are now a year into the Covid-19 pandemic and instead of just running away from the virus through social distancing, we are now engaging in a race with it through vaccination. Whether we will win the race depends on how many …

Vaccines: Between hope and hesitancy

I was listening to the BBC Today programme on Saturday morning (30 January, 2020), becoming rather depressed about the current vaccine row, when I heard Nick Robinson talk about something I had wondered about: the absence of happy vaccination cards – a real gap in the greeting cards market. I had used an online card …

Lockdown fatigue: A tale of two discourses

A while ago I wrote a brief post on ‘lockdown words’, amongst them ‘lockdown fatigue’. At the time I hadn’t noticed all the other quasi-synonyms, apart from ‘lockdown lethargy’. Over time more words crept past my horizon: behavioural fatigue, pandemic fatigue, isolation fatigue, quarantine fatigue and so on. In the UK, we are now in …

Science, Technology & Culture: In memory of Christopher Johnson (1958-2017)

Almost 20 years ago, I was working at the Institute for Science and Society located in the Law and Social Sciences Building (then called the Institute for the Study of Genetics, Biorisks and Society). I don’t know how it happened, but somehow I must have come across somebody telling me that people were establishing a …

Mutant words

I was listening to the BBC Radio 4 Today programme on this sunny morning of the 19th of December when I heard the phrase ‘mutant strain’, used in reference to a new strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus which is apparently spreading in the South East. My ears twitched of course, as they did with ‘mutant …

An injection of metaphors

I hadn’t intended to write a blog post this week. So this is only an attempt to not let an important episode in the Covid and metaphor saga pass by without recording it for posterity. Others will have to do the difficult work of actually analysing what was going on. On 9 November, Monday afternoon, …

The social and metaphorical life of viruses

Metaphors are an essential part of science, from doing basic science to engaging in popular science communication. They can be used sporadically; they can be used more systematically to conceptualise a topic, for example the structure and function of DNA; or they can be used in a veritable firework sprinkled across one article. I once …

Synthetic biology, engineering biology and responsible innovation

Between about 2014 and 2018 I have been involved in the social and communications side of ‘synthetic biology’. I was especially interested in synthetic biology with relation to ‘responsible innovation’ or ‘responsible research and innovation’ or RRI (here are some blog posts). Since then other issues have pre-occupied my mind and I lost a bit …