Science for the Messy and the Mysterious

Bringing Social Science to Bear on the Pandemic

Cutting-edge biomedical research brought the world a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine in record time. But as any public health official will remind you, it’s not vaccines that work, but vaccinations—meaning that the scientific achievement of the vaccine is only the first step in slowing the spread of disease. Vaccinations, by contrast, involve appreciating and navigating the messy, often mysterious impulses that underpin human behavior.

The social, behavioral, and economic sciences can give leaders a better understanding of this behavior and how the pandemic is affecting individual and community health, write Erin Kellogg and Valerie Reyna. “Using a new generation of tools and concepts, social scientists are now able to uncover and understand previously unexplained or misunderstood aspects of human behavior … including vaccine hesitancy, high rates of infections in nursing homes, and even toilet paper shortages.”

Read more about how the social sciences are uncovering the true toll of COVID-19 and helping inform policies for the future.