Barnett: Be a responsible consumer of science data | Commentary

Barnett is a clinical neuroscience student at Virginia Tech.

Scientific consumerism during COVID-19 could be viewed as the process by which the citizens of our regions consume the methods and details about the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This involves the intake of media in a culture via its public dissemination outlets (social networks, news, etc.).

Over the last several months, our region has experienced the effects of the novel coronavirus originally discovered in Wuhan, China. Given the unprecedented nature of such a wide-spread event, elements of our communities that are operationally less than perfect have been exposed. In some ways, the scientific literacy has increased from news coverage and increased screen time occupied by public health officials and other members of the science community.

While this is partially a good thing, the scientific community has struggled to disseminate its methods to the general public adequately. A large part of science is communicating observations and research to members of society that may not have any knowledge of the field.

With COVID-19, for example, I have seen several people claim that the because the original projected numbers for total morality from Johns Hopkins or the White House Coronavirus team were higher than currently projected, that they are no longer trustworthy sources. Claiming that scientists studying COVID-19 have no idea what they are talking about and are not to be trusted for public health advice is extremely dangerous as it leaves no authority present. This thought process is frustrating because it is precisely due to scientists at these organizations that the projected mortality numbers were significantly lowered. Lack of trust in scientists sometimes happens because of a break down in effective explanation of data or little understanding the reasons why governments use science to get ahead of the curve.

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