‘We Have to Ask the Very Same People Multiple Times to Understand What Changes in Emotions, Attitudes, and Behaviors Really Take Place’
On November 6, Dr. Klaus Boehnke, Deputy Director of the HSE Centre for Sociocultural Research, presented his report entitled ‘Does COVID-19 propel value change: A comparison of Germany and the United Kingdom?’ at the ‘Culture Matters’ research seminar. HSE News Service has talked to Dr. Boehnke about various aspects of the value changes and socio-economic consequences of the pandemic in Europe and Russia.
Dr. Klaus Boehnke
In general, an event like the pandemic can elicit two basic reactions, one that we call a protective shift, the other an emancipative shift. A protective shift would mean that people will be more inclined than before to look after themselves, look after their very own safety, develop an elbow mentality. An emancipative shift means essentially the opposite, people recognize that the pandemic does not come from any particular competitor or enemy, but can affect each and every one of us, thereby fostering more of a humanist and universalist outlook on life than before.
The study I do together with colleagues from Jacobs University Bremen (my German home university), from the University of Edinburgh, the University of Magdeburg, and Leuphana University in Lüneburg (the home of my colleague Christian Welzel, who is affiliated to HSE’s Laboratory for Comparative Social Research) does not yet allow any decision on where people in different contexts will go.
From our comparison of Germany and the UK we do, however, know that people in Britain express more COVID-related anxiety and have a tendency to express more of an elbow mentality than Germans do.
Of course, a protective shift would put social cohesion under strain. If more and more people look primarily after their own safety and ignore the interest of others, then decisive components of social cohesion—as defined in the Bertelsmann Cohesion Radar that my workgroup oversaw—will be in jeopardy. There will be less tightly knit social networks, less trust, less acceptance of diversity, and also less solidarity and helpfulness.
Trying to draw conclusions from these results with regard to Russia is rather speculative. What one can probably say is that people in demanding life contexts will have a tendency towards saving their own lot, so-to-speak, and exhibit a protective shift, whereas people with more resources will lean towards the emancipative shift.
Russia is a huge country and people across the country diverge in the quantity of resources available to them, so that more than in other countries I expect within-country differences in reactions to the pandemic
Blame Shifting or Progress of Humanity?
As we all know, history does not repeat itself, so every situation in that sense is new. We have not had a pandemic in a hundred years. In the middle ages, however, pandemics happened quite frequently.
I think what remains the same is that there are always the two options that I described before, the protective shift and the emancipative shift. The protective shift is accompanied by blame shifting. We are made to believe that the great loss of lives arising from the pandemic must be somebody’s fault, the ‘Chinese’ virus, as ill-meaning politicians around the world call it. This fosters conflict and long-lasting antagonism.
At the same time, pandemics and other catastrophes, have often also led to major progress of humanity, just to mention advances in hygiene that have helped to more or less eradicate typhus.
Turning back to the immediate academic sphere, what is crucial from my point of view is to get empirical data from surveys, interviews, and bservations repeatedly and quickly to document and study which changes in people and in social entities really take place.
Only when we get what sociocultural research calls longitudinal data, can we analyze processes. In everyday language: We have to ask the very same people two, three, four times to understand what changes in emotions, attitudes, and behaviors really take place, and how this changes worldviews and the ways in which communities function.
Klaus Boehnke has been working at HSE since 2017. To his great disappointment, in 2020 all his work at the HSE Centre for Sociocultural Research had to be remote. ‘On different occasions, I gave presentations in virtual academic events, and remotely we worked on academic manuscripts. ‘Regardless of whether co-authored by HSE colleagues or not, all my academic publications are, of course, publications that also emphasize my affiliation to HSE. However, in my view this is not enough. I strongly hope to be able to physically return to Moscow in 2021 soonest. I miss my colleagues and the city.’
‘A Completely New Platform, Never Studied or Used Before’: mRNA by Pfizer vs. Sputnik V Viral Vectors
One of the biggest headlines of recent days has been the announcement made by Pfizer, a U.S.-based company, and BioNTech, Germany, that BNT162b2, a COVID-19 vaccine they are developing, has proved to be 90% effective in its Phase 3 clinical trial. The news was met with big excitement all over the world. However, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is based on a new platform, which is still understudied. According to protocol, its trial will be complete only in 2022. IQ talked to Larisa Popovich, Director of the HSE Institute for Health Economics, about the differences between the U.S.-German and the Russian Sputnik V vaccines, and about the chances of beating COVID-19 with massive immunization in the upcoming months.
The pandemic has put global development on hold and this is a chance for Russia to occupy market niches that were previously closed. But innovation should become as essential as air and, without information technology, new niches will still not be open. Alexander Chulok, Director of the HSE UniversityCentre for Science and Technology Foresight, spoke about this in a special report at the global conference‘Accelerate Global 2020’.
Starting October 26, 2020, lectures at all HSE University campuses will be held online. At the same time, the University’s buildings remain open to students and staff. Seminars will mostly remain offline. However, it is possible that some will also be transferred online.
Mathematicians of the Higher School of Economics have calculated the effectiveness of measures taken to fight the coronavirus epidemic in different countries. They have concluded that the scale of anti-epidemic measures does not necessarily directly affect the disease rate, suggesting that one of the main reasons for this is the willingness of citizens to clearly, honestly and consistently comply with anti-epidemic measures.
The coronavirus pandemic and lockdown have made life difficult for credit institutions and their clients. Citizens’ incomes have decreased, which can lead to an increase in bad debts, and a decrease in the key rate to support the economy makes deposits less and less attractive and deprives banks of an important resource. Banks are compelled to search for new ways to earn money, which carries additional risks, says HSE Banking Institute Director Vasily Solodkov.
Russian citizens are almost completely out of isolation and now are less and less afraid of getting infected, however, safety measures are still being overwhelmingly complied with. Alongside that, the percentage of coronavirus skeptics who do not believe in the hazards of the virus is growing. These people refuse to get vaccinated and have no plans to self-isolate in case of the virus's second wave. This is supported by the survey results done by HSE.
Classes will begin on-campus on September 1 (for some graduate programmes on October 1), and wearing masks in university buildings and dormitories will be mandatory for all students and teachers. HSE University will arrange online learning with mandatory support from professors for newly enrolled international students who are currently unable to travel to Russia.
Many people in Russia believe that they had COVID-19 as early as December 2019 or January 2020. Is it possible to find out when the epidemic really started in Russia and where it came from? Bioinformatics provides an answer.
A team of chemists from HSE University and the Zelinsky Institute of Organic Chemistry used molecular modelling to find out that two medications that have been known for a long time can be used to fight SARS-CoV-2. One of them is used to treat alcohol addiction, and the other is for cancer.
Researchers from HSE University have developed new approaches for regulating the expression of ACE2 and TMPRSS2 enzymes, which play a crucial role in cell infection with SARS-CoV-2. The scholars discovered that small non-coding microRNA (miRNA) molecules are capable of performing a targeted decrease in ACE2 and TMPRSS2. The results of the study have been published in PLOS ONE journal.