The European Organisation for Nuclear Research (known as CERN) is the largest and most well-known particle physics laboratory in the world. Its international status is earned; since its 1954 founding, CERN researchers have made some of the most significant and exciting scientific discoveries of the modern age. As one columnist observed when visiting the organisation, “there isn’t really anywhere else quite like it”.
It is time for this to change. Covid-19 shows that politics needs its own CERN: an internationally staffed and intellectually diverse laboratory dedicated to advancing democratic and liberal frontiers – and imagining new ones – at the national and global level. This new institution would need to combine the critical depth of academic scholarship with the relevance of think tank research in order to put political knowledge to better public use.
Covid-19 has wreaked havoc on the physical health and economic security of millions. In the process, however, it has shifted public attention and trust, from the opportunistic populists who have dominated recent politics, to medical professionals and scientists. To some, it seems that “the world has rediscovered its faith in expertise.”
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