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Scientific seminars

Since 2011, Eurosurveillance has been organising a lunchtime scientific seminar at the European Scientific Conference on Applied Infectious Disease Epidemiology (ESCAIDE). The previous years’ programmes, speakers and moderators are presented below. 

Communicating science: social media and other means. Pitfalls and benefits, 24 November 2022, 13:30-15:00 CET. Open to registered ESCAIDE participants.

In this 10th Eurosurveillance seminar at ESCAIDE, the panel members will explore and discuss new ways of presenting and translating knowledge in science communication. Scientific journals and experts are generally considered trusted information sources. As an open access scientific journal, Eurosurveillance plays a role in assuring quality, upholding standards and disseminating scholarly content.
The coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19) pandemic has shown how much public health practitioners and decision-makers rely on evidence from scientific findings as part of their activities and policy-making. Novel research findings, sometimes preliminary and meant to be discussed among experts, were picked up by general media or via social media and debated widely among lay audiences with the obvious risk of misinterpretations and ensuing misinformation.
Science communication and knowledge translation skills are thus important for researchers and public health experts to retain trust and reach out. Being aware and taking into account the strengths and possible pitfalls of various science communication means can help to ‘get messages through’, retain credibility and gauge the risk of becoming a possible target of personal attacks or even harassment.
Whether it is using social media as vehicle to present new findings, give further context or comment on published work, or collaborating with science communicators and journalists to explain research to wider audiences, there are many ways for scientists and experts to present and discuss research. In this seminar, the panel members will illustrate their approaches and experiences on ways of communicating science and the benefits and potential pitfalls of doing this.

Moderator: Dr Mario Fafangel is an epidemiologist in the field of communicable diseases with a strong focus on global disease epidemiology and vaccine science and policy. He is the Head of the Communicable Diseases Centre at the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ), Slovenia. Since the beginning of the pandemic, he has been coordinating the development of public health response toward COVID-19. Currently, he is leading the National Advisory Group for COVID-19 (an interdisciplinary team of specialists from different work fields). He is the WHO International Health Regulations (IHR) Focal Point for Slovenia and the ECDC Coordinating Competent Body. He is an alumnus of the European Programme for Intervention Epidemiology Training (EPIET). During his training he was deployed as field epidemiologist in the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

Prof Isabella Eckerle gave an insight into her own experience as a scientist communicating on social media during her talk on 'Waves, storms & going viral: Science communication on social media during a pandemic'. She is a medical doctor and clinical virologist with a board certificate in microbiology, virology and infectious disease epidemiology. She is associate professor and co-head of the Geneva Centre for Emerging Viral Disease, a joint institution of the HUG and Unige, and independent research group leader of the group “emerging viruses” affiliated with the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Medicine at the Medical Faculty of the University of Geneva. Her research interests are emerging zoonotic viruses with a focus on coronaviruses since 2011, including in vitro studies on MERS-CoV, HCoV-229E and SARS-CoV-2 and the development of novel and innovative cell culture models to better understand emerging viruses in a reservoir host-specific context. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the laboratory has become a WHO reference laboratory for COVID-19 testing and she was involved in multiple high-level activities as one of the few experts having worked on coronaviruses before the emergence of SARS-CoV-2. She is part of the High-level European Expert group proposing a roadmap towards stabilisation of the COVID-19 pandemic in the European Region, member of the joint ECDC/WHO Euro SARS-CoV-2 Virus Characterisation Working Group, scientific advisory board for the WHO BioHub, Spiez Laboratory, Switzerland and expert on the panel on pandemic respiratory diseases at the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) in Germany.

Pampa García Molina is a science journalist with a degree in Theoretical Physics and a master's degree in Science Journalism from the Carlos III University of Madrid. Since 2011 she has been working at FECYT, where she heads the Science Media Centre Spain from March 2022. Until 2022, she was the editor-in-chief of SINC, the first state-wide public agency specialising in information on science, technology and innovation in Spanish, licensed under Creative Commons. She is part of the board of the Spanish Association of Science Communication. She has been a regular contributor to radio programmes on science on RNE, Onda Cero and others. She teaches specialised training in science journalism and science communication in professional master's degrees, workshops and seminars aimed at both journalists and the research community. Previously, she worked as reporter and editor for various media in Spain, and she was co-author of popular science books for adults and children. In her talk at ESCAIDE 2022, she looked at the role of science journalism and the Spanish Science Media Centre on 'How science journalism can fuel public debates and improve people's lives'.

2021: 25th anniversary seminar: Epidemiology and immunology – from observation to explanation and public health action

On many occasions, epidemiologists’ observations of various vaccine preventable disease patterns have prompted the generation of hypotheses about potentially underlying immune mechanisms that support or interfere negatively with vaccination efforts. Through targeted research and collaboration with virologists and immunologists, further light has been shed on the causing phenomena. Translation of this knowledge into practice has supported the development and further study of interventions to prevent infections and control the spread of disease. The COVID-19 pandemic illustrates the role of different disciplines in understanding transmission patterns and pathomechanisms to support public health action. The seminar, as part of Eurosurveillance’s 25th anniversary celebrations during 2021, presented examples of the interplay between generating hypotheses from observation, researching associated virological and immunological mechanisms, and translating the knowledge gained into public health interventions. It covered influenza, measles and COVID-19 and presented epidemiological, virological/immunological and public health policy perspectives.

You can watch the full seminar online.

Full programme and bios

Moderator: Dr Daniel Lévy-Bruhl is a medical epidemiologist. After having worked as a free-lance consultant for UNICEF and WHO mainly for the Expanded Program on Immunisation and the Control of Diarrhoeal Diseases Program, he joined the Communicable Diseases and Immunisation Unit of the International Children Center in Paris in 1986. Regarding immunisation programs, his main activities consisted in training activities in epidemiology applied to vaccination, in conducting operational research and in providing expertise regarding vaccination programs to the Ministries of Health of developing countries. Since 1997, he has joined the French National Public Health Agency (Santé publique France) where he was in charge of the Respiratory infections and Vaccination Unit up to August 2021. He is now working partial time as a COVID-19 expert within the Infectious Diseases Department of Santé publique France.

Dr Danuta Skowronski , leads the Influenza and Emerging Respiratory Pathogens Team at the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) where she informs surveillance, research and program/policy recommendations for influenza. She gave insights into the immunological perspective with her presentation ‘First impressions matter most: childhood influenza and birth cohort (immuno-epidemiological imprinting) effects’. Dr Skowronski is credited with earliest co-development of the test-negative design, a methodology now used globally to monitor seasonal influenza vaccine effectiveness, and that she has further used in the investigation of early childhood imprinting effects. With more than 175 scientific publications, Dr Skowronski’s pioneering epidemiological work related to influenza vaccine is now also informing COVID-19 vaccine monitoring strategies.

Dr Rory de Vries is a virologist at the Erasmus Medical Center and looked at the virological/immunological perspective presenting on ‘Immune amnesia following infections with measles virus: perspective from a measles outbreak in the Netherlands’. Dr Rory D. de Vries graduated as a biomedical scientist in 2006, obtained his PhD in Virology in 2013 and is currently an assistant professor and workgroup leader at the department of Viroscience (led by Prof Dr Marion Koopmans) of the Erasmus MC in Rotterdam. His research focuses on interactions between respiratory viruses and the adaptive immune system. During his PhD, Dr de Vries extensively studied measles pathogenesis in non-human primates, resulting in multiple publications on how measles virus enters the host, disseminates throughout the hosts, and exits the host, leading to pathogenesis models that are currently quoted in virology textbooks. Two recent high-impact publications describe the mechanisms underlying measles-associated immune suppression published in Science (‘Measles virus infection diminishes pre-existing antibodies that offer protection from other pathogens’) and Science Immunology (‘Incomplete genetic reconstitution of B cell pools contributes to prolonged immunosuppression after measles’).

Professor Jean-Daniel Lelièvre from the Henri Mondor University Hospital in France explained the ‘COVID 19 vaccine: The role of immunology supporting the design and adaptation of vaccination strategies ’ in the seminar. Professor Lelièvre obtained his MD in internal medicine in 2002 and his PhD in immunology in 2002. He is a professor in immunology since 2010 and heads the department of clinical immunology and infectious diseases at Henri Mondor Hospital (Créteil, France) and an INSERM team. His basic research activities focused on T cell apoptosis during HIV infection (PhD), then on Treg biology during HIV infection and the fundamental aspects of T cell development and their perturbation during HIV infection. For several years, his research activity and expertise have been refocused on the field of vaccinology. His activities in the field of vaccines also include responsibility for a WP within the EU-JAV (European Joint Action on Vaccination) and the Vaccelerate project (dedicated to research on the COVID-19 vaccine). Finally, he is an expert in the field at national (NITAG) and international level (IVIR-AC WHO), and has conducted several clinical trials in the field of HIV immune therapy or vaccinology.

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2019: Point-of-care testing (POCT) and its impact on surveillance of communicable diseases and public health

Diagnostic devices for testing close to the patient, frequently by healthcare workers who may or may not have specific laboratory training or for self-testing, are becoming increasingly available. Point-of-care testing (POCT) makes testing easier and produces more rapid results, which enables timely clinical decisions and treatment as well as the implementation of infection prevention and control measures. Such advantages have led to increased interest in POCT among clinicians, as well as public health experts and decision makers. However, the incorrect use of tests can affect their accuracy and quality, and their sensitivity and specificity can vary. As rapid diagnostics’ limitations can have important consequences for individual and public health, it is crucial to ensure appropriate use. Aside from standards and accreditation of tests, selftested patients need to be linked to care and policies should be in place to address these aspects. Capturing results from POCT and self-testing devices systematically and comprehensively is a challenge for epidemiological surveillance. For reference and public health laboratories, possible limited availability of referred samples and/or isolates from POCT could impact on detection of transmission events, identification of emerging new strains, infection source attribution, monitoring antimicrobial resistance patterns, etc.

Full programme and bios

Moderator: Professor Nick Phin, editorial advisor of Eurosurveillance, has been Acting Director of the Centre for Infectious Disease Surveillance and Control (CIDSC), Public Health England, Colindale, London, United Kingdom for nearly 3 years. CIDSC covers all aspects of infectious disease response and provides advice and information on infectious diseases locally, nationally and internationally. He is also the International Health Regulations National Focal Point and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control Focal Point for a number of areas. Professor Phin was acting Head of Department for Respiratory Diseases at CIDSC before his current position and still remains involved and keenly interested in influenza (avian, seasonal and pandemic) and Legionnaires’ disease.

Dr Susan M. Poutanen, University Health Network and Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto and University of Toronto, Canada, gave a presentation entitled ‘Infectious disease POCT: ready or not, here it comes’. Dr Poutanen is a Medical Microbiologist and Infectious Diseases Physician at University Health Network and Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, Canada and an associate professor in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology and the Department of Medicine at the University of Toronto. Susan currently serves as the Microbiology Section Head of the Association of Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases Canada. She is leading the Association’s creation of a guidance document regarding quality implementation of point-of-care tests in microbiology. Susan’s broad research interests include: the epidemiology and detection of antimicrobial resistance, the use of faecal microbiota transplantation to manipulate dysbiosis and the optimisation of microbiology laboratory practices using rapid diagnostics, automation, artificial intelligence and point-of-care tests.

Professor Marc Struelens is the Chief Microbiologist at the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) in Solna, Sweden, and he talked about ‘Infectious disease POCT: how to translate into public health benefits’. Professor Struelens is former President of the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, and Professor of Medical Microbiology at the Faculty of Medicine of the Université Libre de Bruxelles in Belgium. Marc has authored over 280 peer-reviewed articles and 20 book chapters across many disciplines, including molecular epidemiology, control of nosocomial infections and antimicrobial resistance. He has served as editor of several international scientific journals, has been a member of several national and international advisory boards and European Union (EU)- supported research and public health networks, and has served as consultant to the World Health Organization and EU bodies.

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2018: Artificial intelligence (AI) in epidemiology: a reality in 2018? 

Algorithm-based machine learning that leads to the generation of new knowledge and that can be applied to autonomous decision making/problem-solving is at the core of artificial intelligence (AI). The opportunities and dangers posed by AI have fascinated humans for a long time. In Europe, the European Commission has put AI high on its agenda and stressed that ‘to build robust models at the core of AI-based systems, high quality data are a key factor to improve performances’. 

Full programme and bios 

Moderator: Dr Ines Steffens, editor-in-chief of Eurosurveillance, published by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). Ines is a medical doctor with a master in public health. She is member and vice-president of the European Association of Science Editors (EASE) Council. Ines was among the group that founded the EASE Gender Policy Committee and she was involved in establishing the Sex and Gender Equity in Research (SAGER) guidelines. 

Professor Magnus Boman from the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) and Research Institutes of Sweden (RISE), Stockholm, Sweden, gave a presentation entitled ‘Artificial intelligence (AI) in epidemiology: a reality in 2018?’. Magnus is currently building learning machines for analysing patient behaviour in a clinical flow of Internet-based psychiatry patients. Over the last dozen or so years, Magnus worked as a computational epidemiologist in Sweden and the United Arab Emirates, chiefly with influenza-like illnesses. 

Florian Burckhardt participated in the expert panel discussion. Florian works as an epidemiologist at the State Agency for Consumer and Health Protection in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany where he is responsible for mandatory disease surveillance and outbreak investigations. He graduated with an MSc Epidemiology from Edinburgh University in 2000, finished his FETP at the Robert Koch Institute in 2008 and has since supervised several FETP fellows and their projects. He develops training tools for applied outbreak methodology in vocational training and for fun. His outbreak investigations covered Q-fever in live cell therapy and tularaemia in grape juice. He is an active EPIET Alumni Network member. 

Dr João André Carriço also participated in the expert panel discussion. João is currently working as a Researcher in the Molecular Microbiology and Infection Unit at the Instituto de Medicina Molecular in the Faculty of Medicine, University of Lisbon, Portugal, and teaches at the Instituto Superior Técnico, University of Lisbon. He studied Applied Chemistry, Biotechnology and did his PhD on Microbial typing and data analysis methodologies. João’s research interests are in Bioinformatics and the development of novel analysis and visualization methodologies with special focus on microbiology, molecular epidemiology and microbial typing methods. He is member of the ESCAIDE scientific committee. 

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2017: One Health – we are in this together – viral and bacterial diseases at the animal-human interface 

The ‘One Health’ concept is a multidisciplinary, holistic approach to sustaining the health and wellbeing of humans and animals, as well as their living environment, given the connections between them. A current and major ‘One Health’ issue is how the use of antimicrobials in animal husbandry has led to the emergence of various resistance mechanisms in pathogens such as Escherichia coli and Salmonella spp.. The sixth Eurosurveillance scientific seminar focused on the interplay of pathogen changes in animals and outbreaks or spread of resistant pathogens in humans. 

Full programme and bios 

Moderator: Dr Johanna Takkinen from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). 

Professor Sylvie van der Werf from University Paris Diderot, France, associate editor of Eurosurveillance, presented on ‘Intrinsic and extrinsic factors for the emergence of zoonotic viruses at the animal-human interface’. 

Professor Luca Guardabassi from the University of Copenhagen talked about ‘Antimicrobial stewardship in livestock and companion animals: the why and the how’. 

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2016: Anniversary scientific seminar – 20 years 

On the occasion of Eurosurveillance’s 20th anniversary, the fifth scientific seminar focused on how science communication has changed in the past two decades. At the time of Eurosurveillance’s creation, various other new initiatives that facilitate information exchange in different ways also arose, including ProMED. While public health has benefitted from the application of evolving data sharing mechanisms, some data and information-sharing hurdles still need to be overcome. During this seminar, two speakers illustrated different ways of gathering and sharing both validated and non-validated facts and figures. They highlighted successes, concerns and limitations, and the role of journals. 

Full programme and bios 

Moderator: Professor Panayotis Tassios from the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece, associate editor of Eurosurveillance

Professor Larry Madoff, Director of ProMED, talked about ‘Rapid reporting of emerging disease outbreaks using unofficial sources: Lessons from ProMED’. 

Professor David Heymann from Public Health England, associate editor of Eurosurveillance, presented on ‘Data sharing: the good, the bad, and the evil’. 

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2015: The right tools for the job: choosing appropriate new laboratory methods to support outbreak detection and response 

The formidable development and application of new tools for laboratory diagnostics, particularly molecular typing methods such as pulsed-field electrophoresis (PFGE), multilocus sequence typing (MLST) and whole genome sequencing (WGS), has certainly impacted public health. For example, these tools have provided new perspectives on identifying and controlling outbreaks. However, the variation in tool availability and application between laboratories and between countries has made finding the right tool as well interpreting and comparing results challenging. The fourth scientific seminar focused on the challenges and opportunities posed by new and emerging methods. Speakers presented examples from the field of bacteriology and virology. 

Full programme and bios 

Moderator: Professor Marc Struelens from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). 

Professor Jacob Moran-Gilad from the Ministry of Health, Israel, presented on ‘Choosing tools for bacteria – handyman, expert or DIY?’. 

Professor Maria Zambon from Public Health England, talked about ‘Right tools, right application, right answer?’. 

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2013: Should we fire healthcare workers who decline vaccination? 

Healthcare workers (HCWs) are at increased risk for contracting infections and further transmitting them to colleagues and patients. However, their vaccine uptake rates have often been very low, occasionally resulting in HCW vaccination being mandated by authorities. This has already raised considerable debate in the case of seasonal and pandemic influenza vaccination, and similar controversies may emerge for other vaccine-preventable diseases. While freedom of choice should be preserved, professional virtue would require HCWs to be immune and public expectations demand that health authorities protect patients. The third scientific seminar addressed ethical principles, values, and practical arguments for and against vaccination. 

Full programme and bios 

Moderator: Professor Pier Luigi Lopalco from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). 

Dr Emmanouil Galanakis from the University of Crete, Greece, gave a presentation entitled ‘Should we fire healthcare workers who decline vaccination?’. 

Dr Marianne van der Sande from the Dutch National Centre for Infectious Disease Control (RIVM/CIb) participated in the expert panel discussion. 

Dr Anders Tegnell, from the Swedish Institute for Communicable Disease Control also participated in the expert panel discussion. 

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2012: Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease: containment of an emerging disease with a long incubation period 

More than two decades ago, the sudden emergence of a variant Creutzfeld-Jakob disease (vCJD) and finding its association with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in cattle, caught the attention of scientists, public health experts, politicians and the general public. The disease’s deadly outcome and long incubation period, as well as uncertainty about the causative agent, generated concerns and fuelled media hype. The good news is that control of vCJD is a success story, with long-term surveillance data showing that containing an emerging, transmissible disease with a long incubation period and complex epidemiology through rigorous measures is possible. The second Eurosurveillance scientific seminar highlighted the shift from vCJD disease public health emergency to public health research, demonstrated the implemented control measures’ value and discussed lessons learnt. 

Full programme and bios 

Moderator: Professor Johan Giesecke from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), associate editor of Eurosurveillance

Professor Robert Will from the University Edinburgh, United Kingdom, presented on ‘Prions, panic and public health’. 

Ms Laura Smillie from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) participated in the expert panel discussion. 

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2011: 15th anniversary scientific seminar 

Eurosurveillance was founded in 1995 and jointly funded until March 2007 by the European Commission, the Institut de Veille Sanitaire (InVS) in Paris, France and the Health Protection Agency (HPA) in London, United Kingdom. The London office published a weekly online paper with short news and rapid updates while the Paris office published an online monthly (compiled into a quarterly print) journal containing longer in-depth articles. Since March 2007, the two Eurosurveillance editions have been published by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) in Stockholm, Sweden. In January 2008, the weekly and monthly electronic releases were merged into one weekly issue containing both short, rapid publications and longer articles. To celebrate 15 years of regular production, Eurosurveillance organised its first scientific seminar. 

Full programme and bios 

Moderator: Professor Angus Nicoll from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). 

Dr Kevin Fenton from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spoke on the subject of ‘30 years of HIV/AIDS prevention in western industrialized settings: what have we learned, where should we be headed?’. 

Professor Christian Drosten from the Institute of Virology, University of Bonn Medical Centre, Germany, associate editor of Eurosurveillance, talked about ‘Emerging diseases – highlights from Eurosurveillance’. 

Mrs Pippa Smart from PSP Consultancy, presented on ‘A publishing revolution fuelled by technology’.

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