Paul Offit’s Vaccines course recently started up on Coursera.org and I intend to follow it through this semester an possibly use elements of this course and the discussions I find there in my own class (esp. Microbiology, but perhaps also in General Biology).
In the discussion forums someone, using the pseudonym, Amy Pond, posed a great question. “How do you decide what constitutes a reliable source of information?”
It is deceptively difficult to answer. If the question regards science, should everyone be expected to track down primary publications and review the data for themselves? If so, how do you even decide which sources to get your data from? If you admit that you do not have the time, ability or inclination to go to the data, is there anyone you can trust to give you the straight dope?
We live in an interconnected world with a surfeit of information. How can we avoid confirmation bias in our online ‘research’? Does the popularity of an opinion (The bandwagon effect) make it more or less believable? How do the search terms you use bias the answers you receive when ‘asking google’, i.e. what about the framing of an argument?
So, how do you decide what sources to listen to?