‘Confidence in Research’: Scrutiny Over Understanding

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From Publishing Perspectives:

Today (November 8), Elsevier has released its new “Confidence in Research” report, based on a survey of 3,000 researchers from around the world. The survey, announced on July 13, was conducted in collaboration with UK-based Economist Impact. It had to do with the way researchers themselves see their fields, their work, and the deficiencies that might limit trust.

While there’s a lot to be said about the public’s trust and understanding of the research industry in an age of mis- and disinformation, this study’s look at scientific researchers, themselves, indicates that 63 percent of scientific researchers surveyed said they feel the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic has increased public attention on research, but only 38 percent said they think that better public understanding of research will be a legacy of the pandemic.

With the input of more than 3,000 scientists, scholars, and researchers, the interest was in how the still-ongoing pandemic has impacted research and its communication in the face of heightened public scrutiny.

As the executive summary says, “The huge quantities of information, increasingly publicized before peer review, poses challenges to identifying information that can be relied upon, even for seasoned researchers.

“This information must be synthesized and shared with the public, media, and policymakers, and researchers are increasingly the messengers.

“But what are the longer-term impacts of this? Are researchers prepared for this public-facing role? Are they equipped to communicate complex, often nuanced findings to lay audiences? And are they confident that the research community is providing them with support and incentive structures that are fit-for-purpose amidst this new landscape?”

Perhaps not surprisingly, the survey found that “being published in a peer-reviewed journal is the most important marker of reliability, according to 74 percent of researchers surveyed.”

The study also indicates that more than half of researchers responding (52 percent) said they feel the pandemic increased the importance of publishing research early, prior to peer review, and many—particularly women, early career researchers, and those in Global South countries—said they feel the pandemic has widened inequalities in, and access to, funding in their fields.

Over-simplification was a concern for 52 percent of the respondents, and 56 percent of them cited politicization of research as a problem “because of increased public attention and social media focus on research and the research process.”

In fact, only 18 percent of the respondents said they feel “highly confident” in communicating their feelings on social media, and 32 percent said they’ve experienced or known a close colleague who experienced abuse after posting research online.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

PG opines that, in the US at least, cost/benefit analysis of various strategies to limit the spread and damage caused by COVID was deficient in some respects. Some experts seemed to default to recommendations that would shut the economy down without carefully examining the risk/reward and cost/benefit results of their recommendations.

China is, of course, an extreme case in which the presence of one COVID-infected individual would often result in a complete lockdown of a neighborhood or high-rise apartment building. How long it will take the Chinese economy to overcome the great damage caused by strict shutdowns remains to be seen.

At times, it seemed that there was a tension between providing accurate information about risks and fears that the unwashed masses would go crazy if threats were not magnified to the Nth degree and extreme limitations were not enforced.

The reports and photographs various government leaders violating their own lock-down orders certainly reduced compliance of COVID strictures.

5 thoughts on “‘Confidence in Research’: Scrutiny Over Understanding”

  1. China COVID lockdowns aren’t past tense but ongoing.

    They have not only shut down entire cities and provinces.
    Their strategy is unchanged and unchangeable because Xi pronounced mRNA Vaccines as dangerous while promoting their own which turned out to be marginal for the original strain and totally useless for everyone since. And because of their lockdowns nobody has natural antibodies so until their guys can develop their own mRNA tech (which took 20 years in the west) they’re stuck with Xi’s prescription indefinitely. Stealing Moderna or Pfizer’s work is not only going to be hard but also futile because the virus mutates so fast. Already the latest western variant is at 17% of US cases. And Asia is getting hit with a *different* mutation.

    In the US between natural immunity and the boosters, Covid is approaching the safe status as Influenza, a seasonal threat but a manageable one. China has neither so its lockdowns indefinitely.

  2. Here’s the fundamental problem, with the argument and with the OP:

    Define “research” before we argue about what people have confidence in. (Hint: “Appears in a peer-reviewed journal of some kind and has Math” is not an adequate or accurate description.)

      • Merely sarcastic, and pointed directly at most economics, and substantial parts of behavior studies, politics/government, and ecological academic work. (And if law or military studies material was peer-reviewed, that would fall in there too.) Not to mention too much in the natural sciences, especially when “future grant money” is on the line.

        The less said about how seriously the general media actually follows the “appears in a peer-reviewed journal of some kind and has Math” meme, the better.

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