The pandemic has reminded the world that there are risks that are unpredictable and hard to manage, despite our planning and preparation. How to cope with these kinds of risks is where science comes in—whether it is the field of epidemiology, which helps us understand the health ramifications of a quick-spreading virus, or economics, which can help guide us through the expanding societal fallout that governments, businesses, and families are facing now.
Although science evolves over time, its proven methodology and focus on evidence is a strong foundation for addressing big challenges. Certainly research and data, as you’ll see in this issue of Trust, guide our response to the coronavirus, from survey analysis by the Pew Research Center to our technical assistance to state governments facing severe economic disruption.
The work of Pew marine fellow Octavio Aburto reminds us of the many ways that science can inform public policy. Aburto, who studies biodiversity and conservation, argues that researchers “have a responsibility to tell our stories and communicate our science.” And with his photography, which appears in this issue, he does just that, helping us better understand the ecology of the world underwater.
Whether it is protecting mangroves, which is Aburto’s latest focus of research; or conserving the nation’s depleted oyster population; or advocating for reforms to the regulation of over-the-counter medications—all of which you can read about in this issue of Trust—Pew and our many partners work hard to ensure that our recommendations and findings are both accurate and effectively communicated to policymakers and the public.
Our way of working requires planning to determine the scope of an issue and preparation to lay out the framework for addressing the problem. Perhaps most of all, it also requires a sense of purpose—the desire that good can result from a problem being fixed, that lives can be improved and communities enhanced. This sense of purpose infuses our work at Pew and was firmly established over the nearly three decades while Rebecca W. Rimel was president and CEO. As she transitions into a role as a senior adviser to the institution, Rebecca leaves a legacy not just of her personal leadership and example, but of her stewardship of Pew’s high standards for integrity and nonpartisanship—and our desire to make the world better.
With the help of the entire Pew staff, I will endeavor to maintain these standards and build on the foundation Rebecca has helped create to tackle new issues and test novel approaches. Times like these also call for more effective communication, more bridge-building and consensus-seeking, more science and data, and facts from which we can find solutions to the challenges that vex society. Those are the hallmarks of what Pew always seeks to do with our projects. In these pages of Trust and in all that Pew does in the U.S. and around the world, we also plan to provide as much of that sense of purpose as we can.