International Symposium: “Transnational and Transdisciplinary Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic”

The International Symposium on “Transnational and Transdisciplinary Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic” was held on 20-21 May 2021 at the Law Woo International Conference Centre, Shaw Campus, HKBU.  Participants included presenters from a range of Hong Kong institutions. The international dimension of the conference was reflected in the conference themes, as well by the participation of overseas speakers from the UK (Cardiff University, Cardiff Metropolitan University, Queen Mary’s, University of  London);  France (the Institutes of Political Studies of Paris, Aix-en-Provence and Lyon, and from the University Hospital of Clermont Ferrand); Australia (Griffith University, Monash University, Queensland University) and Singapore (National University of Singapore), as well as a range of stakeholders from outside of academia (for example, Bruegel, Water Futures Pty Ltd, European Union Office of Hong Kong and Macao).


The event was organized by HKBU’s Department of Government and International Studies, in association with the Department of Sport, Physical Education and Health (SPEH) and the David C Lam Institute for East-West Studies (LEWI). It was generously supported by Hung Hin Shiu Charitable Foundation (孔憲紹慈善基金贊助), LEWI, PROCORE (French Consulate of Hong Kong-Macao and Research Grants Council of Hong Kong), Research Committee of HKBU, European Union Office of Hong Kong and Macao and Heinrich Böll Stiftung Hong Kong. The event was also badged as a key conference in the 50th Anniversary celebrations of the Faculty of Social Sciences.


Why the conference?

Rarely has scientific research been as solicited as in the past year, as societies struggle to cope with the coronavirus. The questions raised by COVID-19 are germane to the medical and the social sciences. From an International Relations perspective, COVID-19 gets to the heart of what comprises a common good – the global commons. From a public policy perspective, COVID-19 is the wicked policy problem par excellence, requiring inter-agency collaboration. From a comparative politics perspective, COVID-19 provides a vast living dataset to engage in multi-level comparisons and real-time experiments. In the medical research field, the pandemic has provided advancements in medical science that would not have been possible without access to a living laboratory. The huge advances in medical science have themselves been filtered by societal variables such as trust and transparency, or risk and resilience.


Responding to existential dilemmas, the COVID-19 pandemic calls for a major transdisciplinary research effort that necessarily combines several levels of empirical analysis and methodological tools and bridges distinct academic and scientific traditions. The conference engaged in a trans-national and trans-disciplinary exercise in reflexivity. There are overwhelming common interests in agreeing on the terms of reference. From a comparative politics perspective, COVID-19 provides a vast living dataset to engage in multi-level comparisons and real-time experiments. In the medical research field, the pandemic has provided advances in medical science that would not have been possible without access to a living laboratory.


The organisers thus invited communications which addressed one or more of the cutting-edge issues at the transdisciplinary and/or transnational intersection on the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Medical and psychological perspectives on COVID-19
  • Comparative perspectives on the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Economic and financial consequences of COVID-19
  • Trust and transparency as governance tools for COVID-19
  • Risk and resilience as coping strategies for COVID-19
  • Crisis management and governance
  • Global perspectives on governance and societies in the Pandemic
  • Environmental health and the pandemic
  • Public opinion and support for or opposition to vaccines
  • (Social) media communication strategies
  • Big data, smart apps and the pandemic
  • The world after COVID-19


Day One (20 May 2021)


A welcome to the conference was delivered by Prof. Daniel Lai, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences. Prof. Guo Yike, Vice-President of Research and Development (VPRD), then presented the state of play of “Interdisciplinary COVID-19 Research at HKBU”. The VPRD stressed how important obtaining large grants was at HKBU and welcomed the interdisciplinary challenge laid down by the conference.


Self Photos / Files - Day 1


In the context of interdisciplinary research, Prof. Guo explained first the operation of the six research laboratories (Smart Society and System Health being the two most obvious labs for this conference) and then went onto explain the various initiatives involving COVID-19 at HKBU, in particular the project involving Prof Julien Baker, Head of SPEH.


The first panel was concerned with the “Covistress” Project: Global Perspectives and Implications. The speakers in the first session included:

Prof. Julien S. Baker, SPEH, HKBU Immune Function and COVID-19: Physiological, Psychological and Psychophysiological Implications
Dr. Linda Zhong, School of Chinese Medicine, HKBU Chinese Medicine Wisdom on COVID-19: from Prevention to Rehabilitation?
Dr. Gao Yang, SPEH, HKBU A Clinical Study Protocol for COVID-19 Rehabilitation with Herbal Medicine and Tele-exercise
Prof. Frédéric Dutheil, University Hospital of Clermont-Ferrand, France The ‘Covistress’ Project: Global Perspectives and Implications


The second panel considered the related issues of Trust, Transparency, Civil Society, Governance, and Electoral Integrity, placing questions of civil society and governance in a comparative perspective. The speakers in the second panel were:

Prof. Paul Chaney, Cardiff University, UK (By zoom)

Trust, Transparency and Welfare: Third Sector Adult Social Care Delivery and the Pandemic in the UK

Prof. Alistair Cole and Dr. Dionysios Stivas, Government and International Studies (GIS), HKBU

Trust, Transparency and Transdisciplinarity: Lessons from COVID-19

Mr. Bruno Cautres, CEVIPOF, Sciences Po France

Trans-European Findings on Trust and the COVID-19 Crisis

Dr. Kenneth Chan, GIS, HKBU

The Impact of COVID-19 on Electoral Democracies: A Global Comparison and Lessons Learnt


In the third and final session of the first day of the conference, attention shifted to the Economic and Financial Consequences of the COVID-19 Crisis. The session was opened with a set of pertinent remarks by the Dean of Business, Prof. Ed. Snape. Speakers in the third panel session were:

Prof. Huang Xu, Department of Management, HKBU

The Duty of Leaders: Leadership Effects on the Control of Epidemic

Dr. Alicia Garcia Herrero, NATAXIS, Hong Kong

Trust and Debt: The Economic and Financial Consequences of the COVID-19 Crisis

Prof. Paola Subacchi, Queen Mary’s London, UK

COVID-19: A Global Debt Crisis?


Day Two (21 May 2021)


Day two started with a keynote speech on COVID-19 and Top Athletic Performance, delivered by Mr. Huw Wiltshire, Former National Performance Director with Welsh and Russian Rugby Unions. In his speech, he stressed the importance of specific types of training for elite-level athletes – essential to avoid injury through rapidly losing fitness in the event on inactivity, or “de-training”. The intervention raised more general issues about the survival of whole sports (avoiding mass contact), as well as consequences at the individual level.


Following the fascinating keynote speech, the conference then broke up into two distinct streams, before coming together in the final roundtable. The conference then split into four matched parallel sessions: the first two on (1) Governance and Societies in the Pandemic and (2) Trust and Transparency in the Pandemic; the second two on Environmental Health and COVID-19 (1 and 2). The ensuing commentary is based on the Parallel sessions 1 and 4, on Governance and Societies in the Pandemic: A Global Perspective and Trust and Transparency in the Pandemic: A Comparative Perspective. The presentation of the Environmental Health panels will be included in the Conference proceedings to be published soon under the auspices of LEWI.


Self Photos / Files - Day 2


The final roundtable was chaired by Prof. Cherian George, Associate Dean of Research and Development, School of Communication, HKBU. Members of the panel included: Prof. Julien Baker, Prof. Alistair Cole, Dr. Emilie Tran, Dr. Gao Yang, Prof. Jean-Pierre Cabestan and Prof. Richard Bernhart Owen. 


Self Photos / Files - Day 2 (1)