December 4, 2022

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When will we organize an independent assessment of the Corona policy?

When will we organize an independent assessment of the Corona policy?

Isn’t it time to expand the scientific debate without fear or malice? To look back frankly and without prejudice, so that we can face the future more strongly? With this contribution, they renew their call for an independent assessment of our governments’ response to the coronavirus.

Dear SSC (Former GEMS Members),

Dear Government Advisers,

Dear gentlemen ,

A short time ago, we launched with many other Belgian scientists #EvaluationNow (www.EvaluatieNu.be): A call for an independent assessment of Belgium’s Covid-19 policy, with the accompanying petition. intention #EvaluationNow He was (and still is) as scholars asking government for the obvious, i.e., to organize an independent and comprehensive evaluation. In the body of the call, we describe its importance, explaining why the assessments already made are insufficient.

Over 100 initiators come from all Belgian universities and from a wide range of disciplines, including researchers with specific expertise in policy evaluation. There are people with different views on Covid-19 policy: some are more important, but others have contributed to it themselves. A number of initiators have also participated in previous assessments in our parliaments. So we know what we’re talking about when we write it’s not enough.

What we haven’t told you is that we have sent all of you – former GEMS members, university presidents, and many other government advisors – a warm invitation to join this call. We also expressed our hope that this would become a connected initiative. This can (and still is) an initiative of all scholars. Two deans and two former GEMS members replied “No.” One of you even indicated that he supports the text, but would prefer not to do so publicly. We showed understanding, but we also saw a missed opportunity. We never received any response from anyone else.

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Our invite to tease comments on social media is welcomed, and the petition It was signed more than 6,000 times in a short period of time, despite limited media coverage. However, there are also muted criticisms here and there. in particular in a an interview With the three of you, dear Deans—and clear advocates of open scientific debate—suggesting that our gravity may be biased, polarized, or motivated by revenge. This is of course not true, and anyone who reads the text and goes through an extensive list of initiators will be able to determine this for themselves. However, a reference to the text was not included in the interview.

These defensive reactions give us the impression that the dangers of #EvaluatieNu may not be entirely clear. It is not sufficient to conduct an assessment among like-minded people on technical issues that aims to enhance visibility within existing disciplines and dominant networks. This is what happens in science anyway. This is what, for example, the Royal Academy of Medicine of Belgium (KAGB) did at the symposium “Covid Crisis 2020-2022, Lessons Learned”with a choice by one of the speakers and members of the committee.

The evaluation we advocate with #EvaluatieNu should be much broader. You must deal with the question of cross-balances if you also include other disciplines, and the question of how epidemiological scientific considerations relate to the political, legal and ethical dimensions. It goes without saying that attention should be paid to what could have been done better, but also to what was done well. With room for skepticism, nuance, and a healthy dose of decency. With respect to everyone who tightened his neck or took it out.

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Such an assessment obviously raises uncomfortable questions. But let that be the real reason why it is needed. Burying their heads in the sand may alienate many people left with such questions, both from politics and science. It will feed the polarization rather than remove it.

Therefore, ladies and gentlemen, we ask again: Isn’t it time to expand the scientific debate without fear or malice? To look back frankly and without prejudice, so that we can face the future more strongly? To bypass the polarization that hit even the scientific world? After an unprecedented crisis like the Covid-19 pandemic, residents can expect a comprehensive and independent assessment. Just as the population expects the other major crises we are going through today that are yet to come.

Through this open letter, we wish to renew our cordial invitation to you, to plead this with the Government.

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Bert de Monck is Professor of History at the University of Ghent. Tegel DB is Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Data Science at the University of Ghent. They are the driving forces behind the petition for an independent assessment of coronavirus policy.