Don’t Panic Dr Mainwaring!

The novel coronavirus pandemic of 2020 has brought about many changes in what we’ve been doing, some of which might stay and some of which might go. One of the striking things was about how we, as a community, have communicated new aspects, theories, ideas, uncertainties and changes in understanding. Some of the messaging may have had a flavour of Lance-Corporal Jones calling out “Don’t Panic!”¬† and doing a passably impression of a chicken who’d seen a fox.

Now this blog has covered before the specifics of uncertainty around one issue – ibuprofen and SARS-CoV2 infection – but hasn’t really talked about how we “create” diagnoses or the way we work to clump and understand and have different points of view. To share our musings can be helpful; we can use the input of others to balance our intrinsic biases, to widen out knowledge in areas we knew we were ignorant of, and even things we didn’t know we didn’t know. What I think we need to be very careful with is being too certain about what we are seeing, wondering, and tentatively concluding.

We are, it feels, living in a place where uncertainties are more obvious. We are all aware of what we don’t know about the way the new coronovirus affects children (though we know more than we did), how it’s transmitted (though we know more than we did), and what it may present as (though we know more than we did). While we seek and gain information to disprove hypotheses .. or eventually accept them .. that’s how science works .. we need to communicate this process very clearly. Concern should not be panic. Possibilities are not certainties. Believing something to be true and having it disproved is the way we have always advanced and the way we should continue to do so.



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