School of Life Sciences

Professor Jonathan Ball uses media communication to inform and reassure the public over the Covid-19 pandemic


Professor Jonathan Ball uses media communication to inform and reassure the public over the Covid-19 pandemic.  

Jonathan Ball is Professor of molecular virology in the School of Life Sciences and Director of the Centre for Global Virus Research at the University of Nottingham. Professor Ball has used his expertise both in virology and media communication to engage and support the public over the Covid-19 pandemic.  

Since Professor Ball undertook a British Science Association (BSA) Media Fellowship with BBC News Online and the Radio Unit in 2012, he has been a regular science communicator, reporting on HIV, influenza, Hepatitis C and the 2014 Ebola outbreak.  

But the onset of the pandemic in 2020 saw Professor Ball’s engagement with the public step up to a new level. He uses online and printed press, TV and radio broadcasts to discredit misinformation and explain complex and upsetting information in an engaging way. A report by the UoN Media Team of the first three months of the pandemic highlighted his contribution to more than 5000 articles, published in 80 countries, with a reach of 19.5 billion readers. 

The most impactful of these activities has been the Q&A sessions Professor Ball offered in collaboration with BBC Radio Nottingham Breakfast for full two years. September 2020 marked Professor Ball’s contribution to the programme for six months since the start of the pandemic. Regular listeners of the radio show expressed their gratitude:  

“I want to say a huge thank you to Professor Jonathan Ball for being there with so much useful information at such difficult and confusing times. Over the last few months he offered such calm and I never like to miss you in the morning and I feel like I am set up for the day with all the knowledge that I need around COVID… you are like a radio comfort blanket.” 

 “He has been a guiding light… a lovely down to earth man who puts things so sensibly and realistically. I didn’t watch the television because the news are so full of doom and gloom and he makes it so sensible and organised and straight forward” 

UoN Vice-Chancellor Professor Shearer West joined the show to thank and congratulate Professor Ball: 

“You can hear from the tributes from right across the community just how important your broadcasts have been during the COVID pandemic…Your work epitomises the importance of communicating science in a way that’s straightforward and engaging” 

To celebrate Professor Ball’s first year anniversary to his contribution to the BBC Q&A sessions, Musical Director at Nottingham Playhouse created ‘The Jonathan Ball Song’. BBC Radio Nottingham and NCT teamed up to recognise Professor Ball’s contribution to informing, advising and reassuring the public by naming a double-decker bus after him.  

Professor Ball helped the BBC’s CrowdScience team produce an informative video on the safety of the Covid-19 vaccine in March 2021 and has continued contributing to broadcast media outputs across a variety of providers, especially the BBC and BBC World. This has included appearances on BBC News Viewers’ Questions Answered, where experts field questions on a variety of Covid-19 topics. 

If you are interested to learn more about Policy and Public Engagement activity in the School of Life Sciences, please contact Africa Couto.

Posted on Tuesday 1st March 2022

School of Life Sciences

University of Nottingham
Medical School
Queen's Medical Centre
Nottingham NG7 2UH

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