The cure for fake news: how to read about the coronavirus

Most probably had only a vague idea what an epidemiologist did or what a ventilator was, while PPE was (if anything) a soft Oxford degree favoured by politicians, rather than the personal protective equipment now urgently needed in hospitals. Perhaps the most useful of its tips is: “If the story appears to claim a much higher level of certainty in its advice and arguments than other stories, this is questionable.”
But what if experts disagree?There will need to be more of this and with luck, it will spread understanding of how scientific results are carefully formulated and circumscribed with caveats, so that experts are seen as well-informed specialists doing their best with the tools and data at hand.There is also broader interest in “drug repurposing” – investigating whether the many drugs that failed for their intended use, but which passed the safety trials, could prove effective for quite different conditions.All the usual caveats about using Twitter – beware of strong opinions from pseudonymous tweeters with 15 followers, or of hot takes from media loudmouths with no expertise – are multiplied and compounded here. Often what they say is not ignorant or wild, but merely narrow and lacking context – they might be good at interpreting statistics, say, while having no knowledge of viral transmission or mass behaviour. No matter how unpredictable the future feels, we will remain with you, delivering high quality news so we can all make critical decisions about our lives, health and security.

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