Queen’s experts rise to the challenge

Queen’s experts rise to the challenge

More Confronting COVID-19 Stories How the university's researchers are sharing their expertise to help us understand and cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives

April 8, 2020


Empty interview room with microphones
Queen's researchers are sharing their expertise during the COVID-19 pandemic, offering commentary and analysis. (Unsplash / Austin Distel)

As the world grapples with the uncertainties surrounding a global pandemic, we seek to understand more about the virus, its spread, and social and economic impacts. We also search for strategies for how we, as individuals and communities, can cope and be resilient in these challenging times.

However, as the coronavirus pandemic intensifies, so does exposure to a virulent combination of misinformation, disinformation, and amateur analysis. In this time of crisis, fact-based and research-informed commentary is necessary, highlighting the critical contribution that researchers and academics can make to informing the conversation

Since the coronavirus pandemic became an increasingly global concern in January, Queen’s researchers across disciplines have been active in offering commentary and analysis on COVID-19-related issues –  from understanding symptoms and spread of the virus to the impact the pandemic is having on Canadian oil prices and the global economy.

“At Queen’s, we have a wealth of leading research expertise that can be applied to how we understand the coronavirus and evaluate impacts of the crisis economically, socially, and politically,” says Michael Fraser, Vice-Principal (University Relations). “Key to our research promotion strategy and integral to our media relations approach during this time is to help our researchers share their expertise through the national and international media.”

Mobilizing research: Confronting COVID-19

As part of the Confronting COVID-19 series in the Gazette, as well as in an effort to build prominence for our researchers as media experts, the university’s Integrated Communications team is working daily across our research community to develop COVID-19-related stories.

The team also shares with media a growing list of Queen’s experts who are ready to comment on COVID-19 related issues.  Many of these experts have been featured at the local, national and international level, reaching millions through traditional and social platforms.

Highlights in the last few weeks include: Sharry Aiken (Law) commenting in the National Post on how Immigration slowdown could add to the economy's woes as coronavirus pressures mount, Duncan Hunter (Public Health Sciences) reflecting in the Globe and Mail on how Canadian governments have employed an earlier and more coordinated response to COVID-19 compared to the U.S., and Anne Ellis (Medicine) speaking to CTV News about why having asthma under control helps people  handle COVID-19.

Leading The Conversation

The Conversation logoQueen’s researchers are also taking advantage of the university’s relationship with The Conversation, to provide expert commentary on the crisis. This news platform, which has 10 international editions, including Canada, sources content from the academic research community and delivers it directly to the public and media through Creative Commons Licensing. The Conversation is currently seeing unprecedented engagement with their sites and content.

As a founding member of The Conversation Canada, the Queen’s research community has embraced the platform as a unique tool for sharing their research expertise and engaging with the media, producing more than 225 articles with 3.5 million reads over the last two years.

Recently, Roberta Lamb (Education and Music) and Robbie MacKay (Dan School of Drama and Music) provided an analysis of how music played and shared during isolation demonstrates how the arts connect us and builds community.  In his 7 tips we can learn from hockey, Stephen Archer (Medicine) outlined how lessons learned from Canada’s favourite game can offer wisdom during the pandemic.

PhD candidate Korey Pasch (Political Studies) looked at how coronavirus is fueling mistrust, fear, and racism, similar to experiences with other diseases, such as Ebola and SARS viruses. The Canada Research Chair in Economy and Environment, Kyla Tienhaara (School of Environmental Studies) provided commentary on the need for governments to consider a full green stimulus to combating the ecological crisis that is pending.

Call-to-action for researchers

“Canadians and global citizens are looking for answers and advice that is fact-based and that they can trust,” says Kimberly Woodhouse, Interim Vice-Principal (Research). “This is where the Queen’s research community can take a leadership role. Across disciplines, we have research expertise that can be mobilized and applied.”

The University Relations team is looking for research experts who can help us to understand the virus, its spread and its variable impacts. If you are interested in becoming a media expert or in writing for The Conversation Canada, please contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives at knoxm@queensu.ca or Anne Craig, Media Relations Officer, at anne.craig@queensu.ca.