On the word of science
G20 Summit

On the word of science

With knowledge grounded in science, the world can be prepared for whatever nature or the economy
has in store

This year the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei coordinated producing scientific documents together with the academies of the other G20 members for the Science 20 and the Social Sciences and Humanities 20.

One document, ‘Pandemic Preparedness and the Role of Science’, was written by the academies of natural sciences; the other document, ‘Crises: Economy, Society, Law and Culture’, was written by the academies of social sciences and humanities.

Proposing changes

These documents were prepared over eight months. We started first with a draft written by the Accademia dei Lincei; the other academies proposed changes, most of which were incorporated into the second draft. After the third draft, we produced the final text.

At the end of July the two approved and signed documents were sent from the academies to the governments of the respective countries.

The ‘Crises’ document has many aspects that relate directly or indirectly to health:

1. Education and research, for equal opportunities in education and fundamental research supported by public funding, with particular reference to promoting demonstrative reasoning and scientific validation as critical tools against the dissemination of false or unverified news.

2. Social policy and legal harmonisation for promoting social cohesion, with particular reference to fundamental human rights, international coordination and timely availability of vaccines as public goods. Intergovernmental cooperation should identify and implement effective legal protection of the internet, global commons and essential resources.

3. Economic actions for the coordinated international promotion of economic policies not focused only on the growth of the gross domestic product, with particular reference to avoiding policies that protect their domestic economies at the expense of other countries. International coordination should promote economic policies, such as a global crisis platform based on international participation and governance to support and coordinate the emergency measures needed to address systemic crises.

The ‘Pandemic Preparedness’ document contained several priorities. Pandemic preparedness needs to start long before a new pandemic. It requires the ability to detect any new or re-emerging pathogens including drug-resistant microbes. We are confronted with two major challenges: we must mitigate human vulnerability to pandemics, and we must minimise spillovers from animals to humans.

Some crucial actions are needed:

Epidemiological surveillance must be enhanced in high-risk areas and populations, an action that may be identified with the support of epidemiological models and experience.

We must be able to detect the pathogens in animals and humans early and to construct predictive models.

Non-pharmaceutical interventions have proven to be highly effective to prevent the spread of epidemics.

In order to reach these goals, the academies urge G20 governments to undertake the following coordinated actions:

Provide and secure funding to national and international health institutions to allow for the provision of transparent, independent and accessible public health information to the global community. This would include investment in basic, applied and implementation research and the analysis of the relative efficacy of public health strategies such as lockdowns and travel restrictions.

Create and finance an international network of national institutes for infectious diseases and infection control to collect and share data, especially in the areas of biology, pathology and the ecology of new microbial pathogens.

Enhance international coordination of research in key areas (for example, the risk of contagion under different environmental conditions, and basic aspects of immune memory). This goal could be reached by establishing new mechanisms for financing international and intercontinental research.

Launch an intergovernmental convention that should pave the way for an international agreement on pandemic preparedness and management; provide a unique forum to assess the experience of COVID-19 for successes and failures in global cooperation; and discuss the need for incentives and mechanisms to reinforce the International Health Regulations, which must become a sharper instrument for action and more timely reporting of potential outbreaks.