Disagreement is not something I’m particularly good at.
Already ‘une femme du certain age‘, it’s a skill I’m developing slowly.
Two articles I read recently reminded me how important it is to be able to stop, consider, challenge information and stand up for accuracy.
Associate professor of medicine and pharmacology Jalees Rehman wrote an article for the UK’s Guardian newspaper on the need for critical writing in science journalism. Referring to the bulk of popular science writing as ‘infotainment’, Jalees states,
“infotainment science journalism rarely challenges the validity of the scientific research study or criticises its conclusions.”
Ideally, he’d like to see writers challenge the assumptions that scientists make, and take the time to offer independent and detailed critical analysis. His implication is that if you’re reporting on science it’s simply not good enough to take the words of scientists – and their public relations managers – and repeat them verbatim. Instead,
“Critical science journalism takes a different approach and focuses on providing a balanced assessment of the work, one that highlights specific strengths but also emphasises specific limitations or flaws.”
Writers must be prepared to do the hard yards and perform their own investigations as to the validity and strength of the scientific findings in studies they report on. Major flaws and misrepresentations need to be pointed out.
Over at Women’s Agenda, Angela Priestly also highlights the need to challenge flaws and assumptions, this time in the arena of business leadership. Interviewing businesswoman Janine Gardner, Angela asked her to elaborate on what she believed courageous leadership to entail. She summarised it thus:
“We want leaders who’re willing to stand in their own spotlight, who always trust their values and will publicly declare when they think something is wrong. Such leadership requires more than simply saying, ‘I don’t agree’ and instead confronting a challenge or the status quo and seeking to change it.”
This, I want to improve on. Identifying poor information and doing something about it.
[image thanks to Between a Rock on flickr]