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The modern research university was designed to produce new knowledge and to pass that knowledge on to students. North American universities over the last 100 years have been exceptionally good at that task.

But this is not all that universities can do or should do. The COVID-19 pandemic has made it even easier to reduce teaching to knowledge dissemination and to obscure other, equally important, forms of education that help students be better citizens, thinkers, writers and collaborators.

Experts got it catastrophically wrong, according to Dominic Cummings, UK prime minister Boris Johnson’s former chief adviser. Cummings has argued that the UK government’s official scientific advice in March 2020 hugely misunderstood how the pandemic would play out, leading to a delay in locking down that cost thousands of lives.

According to Cummings, it was certain specialists with less knowledge of pandemics or medicine – such as data scientist Ben Warner, artificial intelligence researcher Demis Hassabis of DeepMind, and mathematician Tim Gowers – who gave more accurate forecasts at this point.

Smallpox has been eradicated from the face of the Earth following a highly effective, worldwide vaccination campaign. Paralytic poliomyelitis is no longer a problem in the U.S. because of development and use of effective vaccines against the poliovirus. In current times, millions of lives have been saved because of rapid deployment of effective vaccines against COVID-19. And yet, it has been 37 years since HIV was discovered as the cause of AIDS, and there is no vaccine.

Throughout the pandemic, millions of Americans wondered: “Is the cure worse than the disease?”

The question implies a trade-off between “the cure,” in the form of economic shutdowns, and “the disease,” COVID-19. This debate dominated headlines in the first months of the pandemic. More than a year later, it continues to be a partisan lighting rod.

But our research shows that mortality during the pandemic in America has never fit the narrative that pits economic shutdowns against COVID-19.

The recent announcement that scientists have made human-monkey embryos and cultured them in the lab for two weeks made international headlines.

The technology to make animals that contain cells from other species has been available for decades and used extensively in research. These organisms are called “chimeras”.

But this latest advance highlights the need to broaden the discussion around the possible benefits of such research and, specifically, how inter-species chimeric research should be conducted in future.

At the height of his career, the pioneering electrical engineer Nikola Tesla became obsessed with an idea. He theorised that electricity could be transmitted wirelessly through the air at long distances – either via a series of strategically positioned towers, or hopping across a system of suspended balloons.

Things didn’t go to plan, and Tesla’s ambitions for a wireless global electricity supply were never realised. But the theory itself wasn’t disproved: it would have simply required an extraordinary amount of power, much of which would have been wasted.