Next week, Tuesday June 16, KI’s Faculty Council (Fakultetsrådet) invites all KI employees, students and affiliated staff to take part in a webinar to discuss how Karolinska Institutet can and should contribute during a pandemic such as COVID-19. How can we contribute in the current crisis and how can we help build preparedness for the next?
The COVID-19 pandemic has had significant health and societal effects and has strained medical care systems globally. Numerous KI researchers have engaged in the public debate, shared research experiences and expressed their views on government policies and strategies.
Arena for debate
KI – like all universities – should serve as a critic and conscience of society by creating an arena for debate in which all researchers are free to voice their opinions and contribute knowledge from their respective areas of expertise. Sharing knowledge and ideas in the public sphere is a university’s “third task”, and a particularly important one in times of crisis. Grappling with a new virus is uncharted territory and calls for humbleness rather than conviction, and openness rather than preconceived views.
To date the debate has focused primarily on the choice of strategy to limit virus transmission, to avoid overburdening the healthcare system and to minimize the impact on vulnerable populations and society at large. These are important topics, but so are numerous other issues coupled to the challenges further ahead. How shall we build capacity for rehabilitating those who have been seriously ill? How shall we lessen restrictions and continue to open society without inciting a new wave of disease? How shall we transform our knowledge of the current pandemic into better preparedness for the next one?
We as a university must always act with a long-term perspective in mind. We must actively engage in the acute crisis but – in so doing – also help prevent or mitigate the next. We as a university must do double duty.
While we are still in the midst of a pandemic, we welcome an open discussion with a panel of speakers and Q&A with participants so that we can learn from one another and be better prepared for the future.
The role of a university
The current webinar springs out of discussions in KI:s Faculty Council on the very role of a university in a global health crisis marked by uncertainties and unknowns. The primary responsibility of a university is to provide a platform for debate – it cannot and should not take a stand on the opinions voiced by individual researchers. The webinar is open to all KI employees and students on a first come – first served basis. The participant limit for interactive Zoom conferences is 500 attendees. However, the webinar (in English) will be streamed and open to all through KI’s webpage.
Welcome to the first webinar in what I hope will develop into a series of webinars focusing on the roles and responsibilities of KI and universities when a crisis hits.
Time and digital venue: June 16 at 12:00-13:30 via Zoom.