How COVID-19 has complicated the definition of 'expert'

Think pieces from leaders with little epidemiological expertise are circling through influential groups and federal officials, blurring the lines between who is considered an expert in the pandemic, according to The Atlantic

In several examples cited by The Atlantic, legal scholars, military historians, economists and Silicon Valley technologists with little epidemiological expertise are writing widely shared opinions on the pandemic. Many of the articles and statements have been debunked by scientists and taken down.

Part of the issue is overconfidence, according to the report. Voices that are confident or outspoken but not necessarily correct are often the ones rewarded in media and other outlets, according to The Atlantic

With more information accessible than ever, evaluating information becomes important in differentiating expertise. Zeynep Tufekci, PhD, an Atlantic contributor and sociologist at the University of North Carolina, said, "This is the epistemological crisis of the moment: There's a lot of expertise around, but fewer tools than ever to distinguish it from everything else. Pure credentialism doesn't always work." 

Reliance on only individual experts, who tend to have a deep but narrow understanding of a topic, isn't best suited for a pandemic, the article states. Rather, a pandemic needs deep understanding and breadth from public health experts, supply chain experts, immunologists, ethicists and more. 

"In a pandemic, the strongest attractor of trust shouldn't be confidence, but the recognition of one's limits, the tendency to point at expertise beyond one's own, and the willingness to work as part of a whole," according to the article.

Read more here.

More articles on leadership:
How Baylor St. Luke's converted an aging patient floor into a COVID-19 unit
Pence visits Mayo Clinic, defends not wearing face mask
CEO of Children's Hospital Los Angeles: 5 standout initiatives in the fight against COVID-19 

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