Who are the “real” experts? The debate surrounding covid-19 health risk management: An israeli case study

Anat Gesser-Edelsburg, Mina Zemach, Rana Hijazi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 crisis and the different approaches taken to manage it have triggered scientific controversies among experts. This study seeks to examine how the fragile nature of Israeli democracy accommodated differences of opinion between experts during the COVID-19 crisis. Objective: To map and analyze the discourse between experts surrounding issues that were the topic of scientific controversy. To examine the viewpoints of the public regarding the positions of the different experts. Methods and Sample: A sequential mixed study design. The qualitative research was a discourse analysis of 435 items that entailed mapping the voices of different experts regarding controversial topics. In the quantitative study, a total of 924 participants answered a questionnaire examining topics that engendered differences of opinion between the experts. Results: The results showed that there was no dialogue between opposition and coalition experts. Moreover, the coalition experts labeled the experts who criticized them as “coronavirus deniers” and “anti-vaxxers.” The coalition changed its opinion on one issue only—the issue of lockdowns. When we asked the public how they see the scientific controversy between the coalition and the opposition experts, they expressed support for opposition policies on matters related to the implications of the lockdowns and to transparency, while supporting government policy mainly on topics related to vaccinations. The research findings also indicate that personal and socio-demographic variables can influence how the public responds to the debate between experts. The main differentiating variables were the personal attribute of conservatism, locus of control, age, and nationality. Conclusion: Controversy must be encouraged to prevent misconceptions. The internal discourse in the committees that advise the government must be transparent, and coalition experts must be consistently exposed to the views of opposition experts, who must be free to voice their views without fear.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2553-2569
Number of pages17
JournalRisk Management and Healthcare Policy
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Gesser-Edelsburg et al.


  • COVID-19
  • Discourse between experts
  • Health risk management
  • Israeli public
  • Sequential mixed study design
  • Viewpoints of the public

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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