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Setting the Terms for Zoonotic Diseases: Effective Communication for Research, Conservation, and Public Policy

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Department of Life Sciences, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Be’er Sheva 8410501, Israel
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Institute of Evolutionary Ecology and Conservation Genomics, University of Ulm, 89069 Ulm, Germany
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Laboratory of Emerging Viral Zoonoses, Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale delle Venezie, 35020 Legnaro, Italy
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Graduate Program in Population Biology, Ecology and Evolution, Emory University, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA
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Programme in Emerging Infectious Diseases, Duke-NUS Medical School, Singapore 169857, Singapore
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Bat Conservation International, Austin, TX 78746, USA
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Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA 95060, USA
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Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA
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Institute of Ecology, National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), Mexico City 04510, Mexico
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The Centre for Ecology and Conservation, University of Exeter, Exeter TR10 9FE, UK
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Department of Biological Sciences, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX 79409, USA
*
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Remi N. Charrel
Viruses 2021, 13(7), 1356; https://doi.org/10.3390/v13071356
Received: 4 June 2021 / Revised: 29 June 2021 / Accepted: 4 July 2021 / Published: 13 July 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ecology of Virus Emergence from Wildilfe)
Many of the world’s most pressing issues, such as the emergence of zoonotic diseases, can only be addressed through interdisciplinary research. However, the findings of interdisciplinary research are susceptible to miscommunication among both professional and non-professional audiences due to differences in training, language, experience, and understanding. Such miscommunication contributes to the misunderstanding of key concepts or processes and hinders the development of effective research agendas and public policy. These misunderstandings can also provoke unnecessary fear in the public and have devastating effects for wildlife conservation. For example, inaccurate communication and subsequent misunderstanding of the potential associations between certain bats and zoonoses has led to persecution of diverse bats worldwide and even government calls to cull them. Here, we identify four types of miscommunication driven by the use of terminology regarding bats and the emergence of zoonotic diseases that we have categorized based on their root causes: (1) incorrect or overly broad use of terms; (2) terms that have unstable usage within a discipline, or different usages among disciplines; (3) terms that are used correctly but spark incorrect inferences about biological processes or significance in the audience; (4) incorrect inference drawn from the evidence presented. We illustrate each type of miscommunication with commonly misused or misinterpreted terms, providing a definition, caveats and common misconceptions, and suggest alternatives as appropriate. While we focus on terms specific to bats and disease ecology, we present a more general framework for addressing miscommunication that can be applied to other topics and disciplines to facilitate more effective research, problem-solving, and public policy. View Full-Text
Keywords: bats; Chiroptera; conservation; emerging infectious diseases; public health; science communication; zoonoses bats; Chiroptera; conservation; emerging infectious diseases; public health; science communication; zoonoses
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MDPI and ACS Style

Shapiro, J.T.; Víquez-R, L.; Leopardi, S.; Vicente-Santos, A.; Mendenhall, I.H.; Frick, W.F.; Kading, R.C.; Medellín, R.A.; Racey, P.; Kingston, T. Setting the Terms for Zoonotic Diseases: Effective Communication for Research, Conservation, and Public Policy. Viruses 2021, 13, 1356. https://doi.org/10.3390/v13071356

AMA Style

Shapiro JT, Víquez-R L, Leopardi S, Vicente-Santos A, Mendenhall IH, Frick WF, Kading RC, Medellín RA, Racey P, Kingston T. Setting the Terms for Zoonotic Diseases: Effective Communication for Research, Conservation, and Public Policy. Viruses. 2021; 13(7):1356. https://doi.org/10.3390/v13071356

Chicago/Turabian Style

Shapiro, Julie T., Luis Víquez-R, Stefania Leopardi, Amanda Vicente-Santos, Ian H. Mendenhall, Winifred F. Frick, Rebekah C. Kading, Rodrigo A. Medellín, Paul Racey, and Tigga Kingston. 2021. "Setting the Terms for Zoonotic Diseases: Effective Communication for Research, Conservation, and Public Policy" Viruses 13, no. 7: 1356. https://doi.org/10.3390/v13071356

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