Everyone wants to ‘follow the science’. But we can’t waste time on blame
The Royal Society president says scientists must not be made scapegoats for policy failures
In 1981, a virus that had jumped the species barrier some decades earlier to infect humans began to wreak havoc among the gay community in San Francisco and New York. A taskforce was set up to study the cause of this disease, and it took a few years to identify HIV as the definitive cause of Aids and its genome to be sequenced, and nearly 15 years before a cocktail of drugs meant that having an HIV infection was no longer a certain death sentence.
Forty years later, the cause of the Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan was identified as a new coronavirus Sars-CoV-2, and its sequence determined in a matter of weeks. That, in turn, paved the way for a sensitive test for infection and, now, antibody tests for people who may have had the disease. That we know so much in such record time is due to sustained international investment in science.