A 4th Nerdyversary reflection from Nerdy Girl Amanda…

Data Literacy Infectious Diseases

Four years ago on this day (3/16/2020), my kids, like so many of yours, were starting on what we thought at the time was going to be a 1-month stint of virtual school and my local community Facebook pages were ABUZZ with questions. How can we safely form a bubble with neighbors or grandparents? Can kids play on the playground while school is closed? Should we be stocking up on a month’s groceries (and disinfect them)?

As the resident epidemiologist in my local community, friend group, and family, I was trying my best to respond to COVID-19-related questions among these circles on Facebook, by text, and by email. I quickly figured out that the blanket guidance being issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) wasn’t going to be sufficient to answer the very specific questions people had about their particular situation. Around this time, a long-time colleague (Nerdy Girl Dr. Jennifer Dowd) invited me to follow a Facebook page called “Dear Pandemic”. I gratefully began referring friends and family to the answers being provided on that page because 1) I trusted the answers were well-vetted and 2) I frankly did not have the bandwidth to respond to everything on my own. A few weeks later, they asked me to join the team. When I said yes, I didn’t anticipate that I’d then volunteer hundreds of hours over the next several YEARS, but doing this work alongside the other Nerdy Girls has been a labor of love and a privilege. Truly.

My favorite highly-specific COVID-19-related reader question that I ever answered was: “If my mom went to the hair salon on Thursday (hair stylist was masked, mom wasn’t) and her hair stylist developed COVID-19 symptoms on Saturday, then I saw my mom (outside, not distanced or masked) on Sunday, am I exposed and should I get tested?”…way back in September 2021. To me, this question perfectly epitomizes the type of everyday scenarios that people just couldn’t find answers to questions about anywhere else and the special role our team has been able to play in helping people navigate how to stay safe and keep others safe over the past 4 years. If you are curious, the answer to that question can be found on our website here (though largely out-of-date now).

I now have the honor of serving as co-lead of the Data Literacy Squad for Those Nerdy Girls. Data literacy refers to the ability to understand and communicate with others about data. The content written by our squad aims to fulfill the part of our team’s mission focused on building readers’ confidence in navigating health information and sharing their knowledge with others. In the past couple of months, we have posted on several topics related to how we find and understand data including:

🟣 how the keywords you use in a web search influence the results that pop up first,

🟣 the need to be mindful of ‘data voids’ when searching for information on breaking news,

🟣 what it means for a result from a scientific study to be statistically significant, and

🟣 the ways negativity bias can influence the way we consume information,

You can find posts from the Data Literacy Squad on our website under the heading ‘Data Literacy’ moving forward.

In the coming months, the Data Literacy squad is planning to cover additional topics such as tips for judging the quality of scientific studies, ways that logical fallacies and cognitive biases get in the way of using data to make sound decisions, and techniques for navigating information in the face of artificial intelligence (AI). AND…we LOVE having our readers as partners in carrying out this work. You are essential. So, please let us know in the comments what other topics we can cover that would help YOU feel more confident in navigating and sharing factual health-related information within your networks!

Last, if you are looking for an additional way to receive and share our content, and you don’t already subscribe, you can get our Nerdy Girl newsletter containing our latest posts delivered straight to your inbox twice a week. Visit our Substack page to subscribe. While our newsletter is available for free, we very much appreciate the support of paid subscribers (and you also get some special perks, which are worth checking out!).

To those of you who have been with us since the beginning, a very happy 4th Nerdyversary!

Link to Original FB Post