Our Expert Voices conversation on pandemics.

We don't spend enough time trying to understand why and how previous epidemics occurred or capturing information about them as they are unfolding. We're always chasing outbreaks and scrambling to get research in place long after it should be conducted. And once outbreaks pass, funding and research opportunity dries up.

A model: I'm writing this from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where we're studying survivors of previous Ebola outbreaks (including the very first cohort from 1976) and comparing them to survivors of the current outbreak — rather than waiting and trying to get protocols and ethical approvals after the fact. As recent Ebola and Zika epidemics have demonstrated, governmental and traditional funding cycles are too slow and unresponsive to time-sensitive global health issues.

Bottom line: The research protocols, infrastructure and funding need to be in place so we can be on the ground capturing data as it becomes available. There are no shortage of major problems facing the world, but pandemics, with their unique combination of speed and deadliness, deserve far more attention than they're currently getting. Understanding previous outbreaks and being ready to capture critical data as new ones unfold should be a funding priority.

Other voices in the conversation:

Go deeper

Updated 59 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Supreme Court clears way for first federal execution since 2003

Lethal injection facility in San Quentin, California. Photo: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation via Getty Images

The Supreme Court ruled early Tuesday that federal executions can resume, reversing a lower court decision and paving the way for the first lethal injection since 2003 to take place at a federal prison in Indiana, AP reports.

The big picture: A lower court had delayed the execution, saying inmates had provided evidence the government's plan to carry out executions using lethal injections "poses an unconstitutionally significant risk of serious pain."

2 hours ago - Health

More Republicans say they're wearing masks

Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Nearly two-thirds of Americans — and a noticeably increasing number of Republicans — say they’re wearing a face mask whenever they leave the house, according to the latest installment of the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

Why it matters: A weakening partisan divide over masks, and a broad-based increase in the number of people wearing them, would be a welcome development as most of the country tries to beat back a rapidly growing outbreak.

Buildings are getting tested for coronavirus, too

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Testing buildings — not just people — could be an important way to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Why it matters: People won't feel safe returning to schools, offices, bars and restaurants unless they can be assured they won't be infected by coronavirus particles lingering in the air — or being pumped through the buildings' air ducts. One day, even office furniture lined with plants could be used to clean air in cubicles.