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What can we learn from Covid-19 misinformation?

Royal Society Te Apārangi is delighted to host a presentation from Professor Julia M Wright, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and Professor Dame Juliet Gerrard, a Fellow of Royal Society Te Apārangi, and our Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor.

Juliet and Julia will talk about the nature and context of misinformation (and missed information) in science and health, its effects during the Covid-19 pandemic, and what can be learned for future pandemics and other crises.

Potential solutions could include how to safeguard the vital roles of experts, and decisionmakers, and explore the role of the humanities, universities, schools, the media, and the general public.

The speakers will be able to compare the experiences of Canada and New Zealand. 

Professor Charlotte Macdonald FRSNZ will lead a discussion on potential solutions and way forward.

7:00pm Light refreshments will be served.



Professor Julia Wright

Prof Julia Wright
Professor Wright is a Distinguished Professor of English and holds the George Munro Chair in Literature and Rhetoric at Dalhousie University, in Canada. Her research focuses on social issues and scientific concepts in British and Irish literature from 1780 to 1850. 

She was president of the Academy of the Arts and Humanities in the Royal Society of Canada from 2019-2022, and a member of the RSC's Task Force on COVID-19 from mid 2020. She chaired or co-chaired three peer-reviewed policy briefings on higher education and research issues for the Task Force, including: 

  • Protecting Expert Advice for the Public: Promoting Safety and Improved Communications
    “Transparency, accountability, open communication, and debate are essential to democracy.  Orchestrated attacks on researchers that seek to silence or discredit them threaten not only individual scholars but also public trust in evidence-based scholarship. These attacks may also damage public dialogue, undermine the quality of policy-related discussion, and compromise public action if the environment becomes so hostile that experts can no longer publicly or openly share the results of their research.”
  •  The Humanities and Health Policy:  
    “Responding to crises such as pandemics requires deep multidisciplinary collaboration. Along with the science, it is imperative to understand cultures, values, languages, histories, and other determinants of human behaviour."

Professor Dame Juliet Gerrard

Dame Juliet Gerrard 001 credit to Elise ManahanProfessor Dame Juliet Gerrard is a Fellow of  Royal Society Te Apārangi, an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry, and has held the position of Chief Science Advisor to the Prime Minister since July 2018. Her academic research is in protein-protein interactions, and how protein biochemistry can be applied in the food industry.

Professor Gerrard’s office has published several reports on the role of scientific advice in national emergencies, and on New Zealand’s response to Covid-19. As Chief Science Advisor, she guided our country’s decision-making during the pandemic.  Her office has recently published a report on how to equip young people to navigate information online. It focuses on "polluted information" - a catch-all term for misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation. The report proposes solutions to equip young people to understand how scientific evidence is generated, how uncertainty is communicated, and how knowledge changes and advances:

Professor Charlotte Macdonald

01 Charlotte Macdonald 1 675x1011px
Professor Charlotte Macdonald is a historian of empires and colonies at Victoria University of Wellington — Te Herenga Waka. Her research is principally concerned with the British colony of New Zealand in the 19th Century, with a focus on gender and women. Professor Macdonald is a Fellow of Royal Society Te Apārangi, and has recently completed a 3-year term as Chair of the Academy's Executive Committee. Charlotte has been President of the New Zealand Historical Association twice.


Royal Society Te Apārangi
11 Turnbull St
Thorndon, Wellington 6011
Aotearoa - New Zealand

5:30pm Wed 21 February, 2024 - 7:45pm Wed 21 February, 2024