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Knowledge Diplomacy and the Pandemic

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This event is part of a series of events entitled 'Knowledge Diplomacy Seminar Series', co-organised with SOAS and CDE, along with the support of ICR Research.

The policy choices we make now will be crucial to the prospects for the global future. Recent global research has suggested that COVID-19 has shone a bright light on issues of how current economic models handle information and knowledge. 

Some of these are familiar issues that have long been understood but not acted upon effectively – for example, the danger that current systems of intellectual property and patent protection are actually inimical to delivering a cost-effective vaccine available to all, whereas treating knowledge as a public good is much more likely to deliver efficient outcomes for the entire global population. 

COVID-19 has demonstrated that traditional models of knowledge production and dissemination are failing us; scientific knowledge is becoming weaponised and hyper-partisan, and confidence in this knowledge is falling.  

The aim of the event is to explore the role of knowledge diplomacy in the pandemic with contributions from leading experts and an invitation to policymakers and students to participate and share their views.  

Join us for what promises to be an interesting exchange of ideas that will help contribute to the University of London’s approach to its future work on knowledge diplomacy and international agenda. 


  • Professor Deborah Gill, Director of UCL Medical School and Pro Vice-Provost, Student Experience, University College London (see bio)


  • Professor Neil Squires, Director of Global Health, Public Health England (see bio)
  • Professor 'Funmi Olonisakin, VP, King's College London (see bio)
  • Mark Tykocinski, Provost and Executive VP for Academic Affairs, Thomas Jefferson University.


In March 2020, UN Secretary-General António Guterres described the COVID-19 pandemic as the ‘most challenging crisis we have faced since the Second World War’. The need to share knowledge globally, at speed and with trust, and to develop common-interest-building strategies through Science/Knowledge Diplomacy has never been greater as we work through the global pandemic and consider the next steps in the evolution of our globally interconnected civilisation. 

The story of the pandemic is that even in such extreme circumstances, public health outcomes are not the only variables at stake. Also at stake are countries’ nation brands and influence, which hinge on how well a country is seen to have responded to the crisis, including through knowledge production. Higher Education with its knowledge production and analytical capability and transnational networks is key.  

The challenges that COVID-19 has exposed in the information economy and ecology will be of increasing importance. Academics and policymakers need to understand and grasp them now if we are to avoid contagion into other sectors due to the preventable errors that have marred the global response to COVID-19.