Home > IDM contributes to international scientific exchange
IDM contributes to international scientific exchange
3 Aug 2020 - 12:30
Science meets Science Culture in the Sister Institute Seminar Series which was launched, in partnership with the University of Cape Town’s Institute of Infectious Disease and Molecular Medicine (IDM), at the beginning of this month.
IDM director Professor Val Mizrahi and Dr Anastasia Koch, co-founder and
co-director of Eh!woza will speak at this week's seminar.
This series, a collaboration between Janelia, the research campus of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the IDM and six other leading research institutes around the world will host the sixth edition of the Life Science Across the Globe sessions where the Institute will take centre stage.
“It is a great honour for the IDM to be included among this group of world-leading institutes. It speaks to the level of visibility and international recognition which the IDM has achieved as an institute at the leading research-intensive university in Africa,” says director Professor Val Mizrahi. She attributes the IDM’s success to its vibrant community of postgraduate students, postdocs and research staff from across the continent.
Mizrahi’s Science talk, Tackling big questions in tuberculosis: A TB biologist’s view from South Africa, will focus on the need for new TB drugs. As well as contemporary approaches to discovering drugs with novel mechanisms of action that can contribute to achieving the aspirational goal of dramatic treatment shortening.
Joining her on the stage for the Science Culture leg of the seminar will be Dr Anastasia Koch, co-founder and co-director of Eh!woza, a non-profit organisation incubated at the IDM. Eh!woza, which operates at the intersection of public engagement, youth education, advocacy, and skills development contributes to the IDM's unique identity and footprint within the local setting and is a good example of the varied and impactful work that comes together under the Institute’s umbrella.
Responding to pandemic: Public engagement as essential science, is the title of Koch’s talk. She explains that traditionally it’s been difficult to assess the impact of public engagement with health research, in a way that speaks to both biomedical/health researchers as well as the various publics that are engaged in this kind of work, and this is potentially because the models haven’t been developed yet.
“I think there are ways to accomplish impact-assessment that is rigorous and can improve the way public engagement is implemented, as well as make a case for why it’s so important. That is a core aim and focus for Eh!woza over the coming years.”
Public engagement plays a necessary role in contributing to the contextual understanding of diseases, their impact and how they can be managed. But Koch says this is particularly important as it applies to COVID-19, that the preventative and containment measures for this virus rely on a change in behaviour. “There is unfortunately no vaccine or therapeutic yet, so control of the disease largely relies on the general public understanding and adhering to public health advice such as mask-wearing and physical distancing. Given that in South Africa, a lot of this would feel unusual and very unfamiliar, I think it’s crucial that the public understand why this kind advice is being given and how it can lead to containment of the spread of this disease.”
Echoing this sentiment Mizrahi says “we’re in this together.” Adding that, “Online communication platforms are democratising science by allowing people from all over the world to connect without travelling to attend a conference. Learning about the science and research cultures at leading institutes in the Americas, Europe, the UK and Asia, and exposing researchers from these institutes and beyond to us, and how we work, is exhilarating and empowering.” Information being readily accessible and at one’s fingertips has never before been so literal.