We all have biases. It’s unavoidable. It’s human, and like much in life, it matters more what we do with this information than simply being aware of our biases, which is an important first step.
Dr. Zeynep Tufekci spoke at the National Information Standards Organization (NISO) Plus Conference on February 25, 2021. She was the closing keynote speaker and summed up the conference so well. She spoke about the quickly changing information landscape of COVID-19 over the last year (February 2020–February 2021), but especially in the first few months. The efficacy of masks, for example, had seemingly conflicting evidence in the US, but many cultures around the world, specifically Asian countries, wear masks and have supporting studies on the efficacy of masks, yet were mostly ignored.
Groupthink and othering are pervasive in the US today. Changing your mind about something can demonstrate healthy growth. Today, changing your mind is seen, generally, as a weakness or “drinking the Kool-Aid” or “switching sides.” Masks and the COVID-19 pandemic were (and still are) politicized, partly because of how the information was shared and who shared it.
Tufekci used the example of publishing information about COVID-19 early on in 2020. Much of NISO Plus Conference 2021 was about Open Science, Open Access, and consistent standards across disciplines. She, along with a group of others, released preprints and asked for peer-review from the masses. This posture of open-mindedness is crucial to scholarship (and all of life). Asking questions for critical feedback as a crowd-sourced peer-review process seems like a healthy first step in the publishing process. This prompted meaningful changes and re-framing of the paper, including changing the minds of the authors. This also allowed a larger, more diverse community to provide feedback that may have been kept out from the traditional peer-review process. These edits were then put through the more traditional peer-review process for further edits before final publication.
We can all practice a more open-minded posture in life. One that holds much of life with an open hand instead of a clenched fist. Critical thinking is important but must be integrated with open-mindedness and a willingness to change. I am not, however, calling for moderate views on everything. I think moderate views in much of life are more dangerous than not, especially in public health, human rights, and anti-Black racism.
I hope to continue to learn ways to dismantle groupthink in myself and others, work toward justice in the world, and see the humanity in everybody (including myself). I hope you’ll join me on this journey!