How researchers get heard
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Say What the Evidence Means

List member David Chapin, CEO of Forma Life Science Marketing, responds to my post on why researchers need to call it early more often with some understanding and some tough love takeaways:

One thing that your thinking, and those of the experts you cite, makes clear to me is that science, with its “peer-reviewed, make it impervious to attack” attitude, doesn’t work really well in the VERY short term. There’s too much doubt and room for the caveats to get in the way. The inner scientist is screaming, “But we don’t have all the answers yet.”

The takeaways:

Past: What 3 early calls did you make (or miss) in the past. What was the impact?

Present: What should you be calling early RIGHT NOW? What would the impact be?

Future: What (f-cking) total disasters do you fear, and what would be the trigger points/events that would spur you to call those early?

This Chapin fellow, he’s good.

I’ll make two comments:

  1. Implicit in David’s response: Calling it early is a prediction. But too many people today think the true test of expertise is correct prediction — that “experts” have been hiding and not testing their expertise in public through constant thinking in bets. But remember what Mark Lipsitch said about his early call of the eventual extent of COVID-19 in the United States: “I have no illusion that I had the exact right calibration. … But I think as early as I was able to put together the evidence, I said what I thought it meant. And I don’t know how to do any better than that.” That’s research-based expertise personified — putting together the evidence as early as you are able and saying what you think it means. That’s much more than just thinking in bets.
  2. Also implicit in David’s response: The penalty paid for your not calling it early is borne by all of us. That’s why you don’t call it early more often. And why you should.