Coronavirus in the lang. Illustration by David S. Goodsell, RCSB PDB

Preface

What can you say in a preface that hasn’t already been said many times before? In my role as President of SIBBM, I am proud to be associated with this initiative and delighted with the results. The project has unfolded with little further effort on my part after its launch, thanks to the enthusiasm and tireless work of Barbara Illi, as well as the support of Marika De Acetis and the Zanichelli staff.

I am convinced that scientists have the moral duty to strive to improve the public’s understanding of scientific problems and increase their participation in knowledge generation. During the pandemic, we have witnessed just how difficult the relationship between science, the general public, and politics still is. We scientists have to make the effort to explain the fundamentals of scientific reasoning and the logic of research work, which is based more on questions than on definitive answers. Science should educate as much as it informs, it ought to support political decisions without replacing them, and—above all—it requires time, as well as constant financial and logistic support.

COVID-19 research has performed incredibly well, although the exceptional speed and quality of the results has often been overshadowed thanks to the publication of insufficiently robust data that was later withdrawn. The initial enthusiasm of politicians and citizens concerning scientific results on SARS-CoV-2 has also faded as a result of public disputes between doctors, scientists and virologists expressing diverse opinions, and also due to an ill-concealed disappointment that despite all the results obtained the problem still persists. Yet the very fact that unreliable data could be so quickly identified and retracted shows how well science can rigorously evaluate itself, correcting its own path. A plurality of hypotheses and explanations is the heart and lifeblood of scientific research, but these should never be reported as absolute truths, especially if they are not corroborated by robust scientific evidence and validation. The COVID-19 problem is far from solved, but the progress made in its understanding and management seems almost like science fiction to me, making me proud to be a scientist.

My hope is that part of this enthusiasm can infect those who approach this platform to read, understand and be informed, even by a single article, be they students who want to master specific topics, non-experts looking for reliable information, or teachers who want to use a resource for their lessons.

I would like to conclude by dedicating this work to Professor Riccardo Cortese, the mentor of so many Italian molecular biologists, myself included, a brilliant researcher and excellent manager who was passionate about culture and life, and who has unfortunately left us too soon. Thank you, Riccardo: this is all thanks to you too!

Valeria Poli
SIBBM President

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