Newswise — Science and policy will converge at Ursinus College April 11 and 12 at the Institute on Science for Global Policy (ISGP) conference on Emerging and Persistent infectious Diseases: Focus on Pandemic Preparedness. At the conference, scientists will clarify scientific and technical understanding for those who are charged with, or who directly influence policy decisions.

Leaders from state and local health departments and the biotechnology industry, scientists, physicians and other health care workers, policy makers and scholars will attend the two-day conference designed so that in-depth debates will precede caucuses that identify areas of consensus on pandemic preparedness, culminating in published recommendations for actionable next steps.

“The conference is a collaboration between the Center for Science and the Common Good, which encourages students to think about the ethical implications of science and the Institute on Science for Global Policy, which organizes conferences that give policy makers access to the best and newest science available,” explained Biology Professor Robert Dawley, who is directing the conference at Ursinus.

The invitation-only conference is unique in that undergraduate students, who are often overlooked as key players in discussions of critical issues such as societal implications of scientific issues, will have a seat at the table. Sixteen Ursinus College students, Fellows of the Ursinus Center for Science and the Common Good, will join an “inner table” of experts who will question the panelists. They have taken a special course, “Pathogens, Pandemics and Preparedness,” taught by Anthony Lobo of the Ursinus Biology faculty. “Ursinus undergraduates will join government officials, physicians, and officers from the biotechnology sector in critically questioning three internationally-renown scientist experts on pandemic preparedness,” Dawley said.

Conference speakers are:

George W. Korch, Senior Science Advisor to the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS);

Stephen S. Morse, Professor of Epidemiology, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health; and

Kasisomayajula “Vish” Viswanath, Associate Professor, Department of Society, Human Development, and Health, Harvard School of Public Health

George H. Atkinson, Executive Director, ISGP, and former Science and Technology Adviser to Secretaries of State Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell, will moderate.

Sponsored by the Center for Science and the Common Good at Ursinus College, and supported in part by an undergraduate science education grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the ISGP-Ursinus Conference emphasizes the importance of clear communication among the scientific community, policy makers, and the public.

On Friday, April 11 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., the three internationally recognized scientists will debate their respective policy position papers on issues associated with pandemic preparedness and infectious diseases. The papers are available to the public. They will defend answer questions from a panel of Ursinus students and faculty, scientists and physicians, and representatives from government, the private sector, and the community. Members of the audience may submit written questions that are given to the moderator.

On Saturday, April 12, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., all conference participants, including audience members who attended the debates on Friday, will join small-group caucuses to identify areas of consensus and actionable next steps. The conference concludes with a plenary session that synthesizes the conclusions from the caucuses. Summaries of these conclusions and of the Friday debates will be prepared by Ursinus students and faculty in collaboration with ISGP staff and published with the scientists’ policy position papers in a publicly available book.

To learn more about the ISGP-Ursinus College Conference on EPID: Focus on Pandemic Preparedness visit

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