Sadly, we live in an increasingly divided world
Scholarly communications — like the wider world — are increasingly divided. The rhetoric around non-profit versus commercial organizations, open versus subscription models, publishers versus librarians, is often presented in a very black and white, good versus bad way. Yet we all have the same ultimate goal – to support research and researchers. So why don’t we collaborate more (like our researchers do), and argue less (like our much mistrusted politicians)? Why don’t we focus more on what we have in common, and less on where we differ? Why don’t we define ourselves more as “we” and less as “them and us”? Why don’t we put more effort into being better together?
Whichever way you look at it, we live in an increasingly divided world. Encouraged by many of our political (and other) leaders, partisanship has become the norm; mistrust is rife; and our differences are prioritized over what we have in common. And yet, and yet… Despite the skepticism of an alarming number of politicians and others, public trust in science is, at worst, stable; at best, growing. A recent report shows that the level of trust on individual topics may vary by demographic (e.g., ideology and age for climate change; race/ethnicity for childhood vaccines), as may the overall level of trust in science and scientists (just 52 percent of those without a high school diploma say the benefits of scientific research outweigh the harmful results, compared with 94 percent of those with a graduate degree or beyond). But even so, the vast majority of people in the U.S. (76 percent) trust scientists more than they trust almost any other group according to this recent Pew survey — and substantially more than they trust elected officials — including, yes, those who are trying to persuade us to ignore what those scientists are saying (27 percent)! According to the 2017 Ipsos MORI Veracity Index, this is even more the case in the U.K., with 83 percent saying they trust scientists and just 17 percent trusting politicians.
Research, of course, is built on collaboration, which is itself built on trust. Standing on the shoulders of giants and building on their efforts; working in (often global and/or cross-disciplinary) teams; sharing research results with peers, inviting their feedback, and refining work accordingly — all are central to science and scholarship.
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