Am I the only person who instantly judges headline-makers? If Twitter is anything to go by, no. No, I’m not.
As I’m news-obsessed, I’m making it my business to apply these news-inspired judgements to my humble life and share these observations here, in the hope they might be useful to someone else, too.
Today, the editor of The Lancet argues in the Guardian that the same people who made systematic errors in failing to prepare for the pandemic are also the people we're entrusting to navigate our way out of it.
The argument is not that these are the wrong people, but that SAGE needs to open up to scrutiny. Scientific groupthink is the enemy. Testing of ideas in the real world makes them stronger, but we don't have time to wait for the real world to teach us lessons – lives are on the line; so the collision of ideas in the minds of smart people is a strong proxy. Further, covering up previous failures with propaganda is another way of hiding the truth, and thus failing to learn from it.
This is the real world. I (personally) am cross with the government for not preparing better for this pandemic – they were warned often. I am absolutely furious with the WHO, the UK government and others who have spent the last months telling us that masks won’t protect our health, when it is so obviously an outright lie – if not, why do the NHS need them?
They should admit they failed to prepare properly – and they need the country's help in solving the problem. Trust in government is so important, lying so blatantly about a matter of life and death undermines out faith in these organs of statehood, and that's a shameful coverup.
I have no influence to change what’s happening in government, but from my little office at home, this means I need to reinforce two things.
One, to be brutally honest with myself, and two, to be accountable to those people to whom I should be accountable - even when I don't see them every day and when it is hard to do so.
So, how do I do this? I use lists [I use lists for everything!]. I start with the BIG LIST of everything I want to achieve at work and at home and my responsibilities, then I look at who is relying on me to do these things and communicate with them about what we're going to do together. I try to communicate with them about what I intend to do, and then I keep them up to date with my progress. Crucially, if I am falling behind or have failed to anticipate something, I'll let the people I'm accountable to know about this failure and together, we will replan what we will do next.
It's only through this process of prioritisation, making promises and keeping them, or being sincere when they cannot be met and working hard to get back on track, that we can build trust in each other and our relationships can grow.
It is hard to let someone down, it is worse to fail to let them know about it. But, worse still, is to fail and then lie about the fact that it was never important in the first place – that feels like an outright betrayal.
Ok, back to work – I have promises to keep. If this approach is in any way helpful, do let me know.
Lancet editor, Richard Horton, suggested that “coronavirus is the greatest global science policy failure in a generation”. He recalled the many experts who have been predicting such a pandemic, some for decades, and argued that in the UK, “the experts – scientists who have modelled and simulated our possible futures – made assumptions that turned out to be mistaken.” If he is right, and I think he is, then we should ask, why?