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Podcast discussion about balance between deniers and alarmists

Updated: Jul 3, 2020

I participated in a podcast led by my colleagues Jason Moore and Marylyn Ritchie last week. They put out this interesting podcast on issues related to biomedical informatics and data science each month, and they had me on talking about this blog page and my perspective on the COVID-19 pandemic. You can see my interview part from the 17 minute to the 47 minute part of the podcast.

Some points I discussed include:

  • How I decided to do this blog page, and its undergirding philosophy to use the principles of data science to evaluate information floating around out there, try to remove sources of bias, synthesize information together, and figure out what it tells us along with appropriate indication of uncertainties.

  • Finding a balanced perspective, the middle ground between the extremes of denial and insufficient vigilance, and alarmism and irrational fear.

  • Media narratives, and the role of statisticians and other data scientists as "arbiters of what the data say" to help people navigate a world driven by narratives based on cherry-picked or one-sided presentation of data.

  • Safe reopening, and why some states have done fine after opening and others have struggled.

  • An example of how looking carefully at all data types together, accounting for the limitations and measurement error of each type, is important for clearly seeing an accurate picture of what is going on.

  • The role of federal government vs. scientific community in leading during this crisis, and the lack of clear messaging from our government leaders, and the great international cooperation in the scientific community.

  • The excitement and risks of fast-accruing information and rapidly moving scientific studies during the time of this pandemic, or "wartime science"

  • How the divisiveness in our modern society has robbed us opportunity to come together in facing a crisis that affects all of us, and for which everyone ultimately wants the same thing.

I encourage you to put this podcast on your subscription list -- it is a great venue for discussing the key role biomedical informatics can play in society. Jason and Marilyn are leaders in the field, and "renaissance thinkers" who have great perspectives and thoughts on many issues.

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