21 experts you should follow if you want to make sense of the pandemic (and a bonus)

Pandemic months have come and gone, and we’ve learned a lot about the virus — we really have. But for every piece of solid information, there seem to be a dozen more questions. Even scientific studies sometimes have problems piecing together the different bits of information.

So we’ve put together a list of top experts who are not only great scientists, but also excellent communicators, so you can get quality information straight from the source. Here we go.

Caitlin Rivers (@cmyeaton)

Assistant professor at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security

Rivers’ modelling on infectious disease evolution helps policymakers make informed decisions. She is a great source for all things regarding disease testing and tracking, and she also regularly posts important public health information.

“A vaccine must be safe, effective and trusted. It’s not a “pick 2” situation – we need all three. It would be a tragedy if leaders jeopardized the thing that may allow us to safely return to our way of life for political expedience,” Rivers noted in one of her tweets.

Carl Bergstrom (@CT_Bergstrom)

Theoretical and evolutionary biologist and a professor at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington

Bergstrom the person to follow if you’re looking to call out low-quality or misleading scientific research. In addition to his academic qualifications, he’s also a co-author of Calling Bullshit, a book on how to identify and dismantle misinformation. Bergstrom is a pandemic must-follow.

Muge Cevik (@mugecevik)

Physician who is an infectious diseases researcher and science communicator at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland

Cevik was a scientific advisor to the Chief Medical Officer of Scotland and she is now working on the front lines of the pandemic response, using Twitter as a way to keep the public up to date on recent developments.

Nahid Bhadelia (@BhadeliaMD)

Medical Director of the Special Pathogens Unit at Boston Medical Center and Associate Professor at Boston University School of Medicine

Bhadelia is one of the doctors who realized quickly that the pandemic would be devastating, and they did her best to keep the world informed, in addition to working at their day jobs. In addition to her updates on the medical aspects of the pandemic, Bhadelia is also good to follow for those interested in US policy.

Saskia Popescu (@SaskiaPopescu)

Adjunct Professor in the Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics at the University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona

Popescu is at the forefront of one of the hotspots of the pandemic, in Arizona. She is an expert in healthcare biopreparedness and is nationally recognized for her work in infection prevention and enhancing hospital response to infectious diseases events. She frequently shares her views on the best medical practices and is an excellent follow to keep you up to date with recent coronavirus developments.

Richard Carpiano (@RMCarpiano)

Professor of Public Policy & Sociology at UC Riverside

Carpiano is a public health scientist and sociologist studying population health and community issues. He often comments on current events in health policy and societal impacts in the US and Canada.

Esther Choo (@choo_ek)

Emergency physician and professor at the Oregon Health & Science University

She regularly talks about racism and sexism in healthcare and over the course of the pandemic, she has emerged as a popular commenter at the intersection of health and social justice. For instance, the day after George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police officers, she wrote “I keep thinking how in the ER when someone rolls in gasping ‘I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe’ we all jump to our feet and run to assess and help them.” She is also not afraid to say the words we are all thinking.

Tom Frieden

American infectious disease and public health physician, former CDC director

It’s hard to find anyone who knows more about the American healthcare system and pandemics than Tom Frieden. He worked through the Zika and Ebola epidemics and his take on the current CDC turmoil is always insightful. For a broad and incisive perspective, be sure to check Frieden’s feed.

Natalie Dean (@nataliexdean)

Assistant Professor of Biostatistics at the University of Florida specializing in emerging infectious diseases and vaccine study design

If you want to think like an epidemiologist, Natalie Dean is the one to follow. Her research focuses on emerging diseases, and in particular, on designing clinical trials for vaccines. For a balanced view on how both the pandemic and the vaccines are progressing, Dean is important to follow.

Marc Lipsitch (@mlipsitch)

Professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics

https://twitter.com/alchemytoday/status/1309114558695571469

Lipsitch is one of the leading experts on modelling the evolution of the pandemic, and his other research focuses on forecasting disease and assessing pandemic response and preparedness. If you’re looking for a clear voice on these topics, Lipsitch is one of the best to follow.

Laurie Garrett (@Laurie_Garrett)

Pulitzer-winning journalist for her Ebola coverage

Unlike many science journalists, Garrett has a background in science. During her PhD studies, she took a leave to explore journalism and never looked back. As far as communicators go, you’d struggle to find anyone more knowledgeable. From policy to vaccines, Garrett breaks down important matters around the pandemic in a way that’s approachable and easy to understand.

Tara C. Smith (@aetiology)

Professor at the Kent State University College of Public Health, studying zoonotic infections.

Smith’s research and commentary is regularly picked up by the media, and for good reason: it’s always to the point. Her own research focuses on matters such as antibiotic resistance and vaccine hesitancy, but she is more known to the public for her light-hearted Christmas contribution to the British Medical Journal on the likelihood of a Zombie apocalypse. In several articles on the Zika pandemic, she used the zombie analogies to explain how diseases can spread, proving that she is an excellent communicator in addition to an excellent researcher.

Adam Kucharski (@AdamJKucharski)

Lecturer in mathematical modelling at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and award-winning science writer.

Kucharski works on the mathematical analysis of infectious disease oubreaks — one of the more hotly-debated pandemic topics. But Kucharski also addresses the public directly in popular articles, and his book The Rules of Contagion is a must read for anyone interested in the topic.

Susan Michie (@SusanMichie)

Professor of Health Psychology & Director of Centre for Behaviour Change, UCL, UK

Michie has worked on psychology for decades, and her recent research focuses on advancing scientific knowledge about, and applications of, behavior change interventions. She comments on general coronavirus matters and UK-focused affairs.

Akiko Iwasaki (@VirusesImmunity)

Professor of Immunobiology and Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute

When it comes to understanding immunity to viruses (and explaining it in an approachable way), Iwasaki hits the nail on the head. Since there is so much about the coronavirus immunity we still don’t know yet, her insights are particularly valuable. She’s also a fervent supporter of women in stem.

Vinod Scaria (@vinodscaria)

Senior Scientist at the CSIR Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology

Vinod Scaria is best known for sequencing the first Indian genome, and he is currently pioneering precision medicine and clinical genomics in India. Both Iwasaki and Scaria provide a more international and less US-focused perspective.

Ali Nouri (@AliNouriPhD)

Molecular biologist, the President of the Federation of American Scientists

Dis(or mis)information has been a massive pain over the course of this pandemic, and Nouri is doing the best to clear the waters. Whether it’s vague CDC reports, political interference, or the latest research, his feed is a trove of valuable information.

Jeremy Faust (@jeremyfaust)

Health Policy/Public Health at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School

Faust’s work has been featured in top peer reviewed journals and top media publishers as well. While still working as an attending physician in the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Department of Emergency Medicine, he is also in the Health Policy Division at Harvard Medical School. His tweets revolve around pandemic outcomes, policy, and debunking bad science. Like many of the experts on this list, Faust is not afraid to burn.

Angela Rasmussen (@angie_rasmussen)

Virologist at the Columbia University

The core of Rasmussen’s research focused on why some are more vulnerable than others to viral infections. Her work was on the ebola virus, but it can be translated and adapted to this pandemic. She has also been on the frontlines of communication around the novel coronavirus, cautioning against publishing preliminary findings too quickly, as this can mislead the public.

Paul Sax (@PaulSaxMD)

Harvard/Brigham Infectious Diseases doctor and educator

Sax mainly focuses on clinical trials of antiretroviral therapies and the cost-effectiveness of management strategies (especially for HIV) but he regularly comments on the current pandemic. As a peer-reviewed journal editor, his insights on recent studies is particularly valuable.

Céline Gounder (@celinegounder)

Expert in Medicine, Infectious Diseases, and Public Health. NYU Professor

Both a doctor and a journalist, Gounder specializes in infectious disease and global health. When she’s not on national television, writing for major publishers, practicing medicine, or teaching at NYU, Gounder takes to Twitter to dissect some of the most burning pandemic issues.

Of course, these are just some of the experts worth adding on this list. Is there anyone you’d like to see added on? Let us know in the comments.

Bonus: a free, MIT-taught course on the pandemic

The MIT Department of Biology tapped leading scientists on pandemics to spearhead a course, 7.00 (COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2 and the Pandemic), which began Sept. 1. 

It’s an excellent opportunity to learn more about this defining event from some of the most experienced researchers out there (including Anthony Fauci).

Here are the lessons that have been published at the time of this writing:

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