Skip to ContentSkip to Navigation

University of Groningen Library

Open Access
Header image Open Science Blog

Open Access Publication in the Spotlight (September) - 'The Role of Source Reliability in Belief Polarisation'

Date:20 September 2021
Author:Open Access Team
Open access publication in the spotlight: September 2021
Open access publication in the spotlight: September 2021

Each month, the open access team of the University of Groningen Library (UB) puts a recent open access article by UG authors in the spotlight. This publication is highlighted via social media and the library’s newsletter and website.

The article in the spotlight for the month of September 2021 is titled The role of source reliability in belief polarisation, written by Leah Henderson (from the Theoretical Philosophy department at the Faculty of Philosophy) and Alexander Gebharter (Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich).


Psychological studies show that the beliefs of two agents in a hypothesis can diverge even if both agents receive the same evidence. This phenomenon of belief polarisation is often explained by invoking biased assimilation of evidence, where the agents’ prior views about the hypothesis affect the way they process the evidence. We suggest, using a Bayesian model, that even if such influence is excluded, belief polarisation can still arise by another mechanism. This alternative mechanism involves differential weighting of the evidence arising when agents have different initial views about the reliability of their sources of evidence. We provide a systematic exploration of the conditions for belief polarisation in Bayesian models which incorporate opinions about source reliability, and we discuss some implications of our findings for the psychological literature.

We asked first and corresponding author Leah Henderson a few questions about the article:

This article was published open access, was open access a deliberate choice?

Yes, it was. The work was done as part of an NWO Veni project and publications from there must be open access. In general I think it is a good thing to encourage open access requirements. Funder mandates are of course not the only way to do this.

How common is open access publishing in the field of philosophy? Are there enough open access publishing options available?

I am not sure how common open access publishing is in philosophy, but increasingly there do seem to be open access options available [for journal articles]. As for publishing books open access, I am not aware of options for this.

What role could open science play in improving the perceived reliability of scientists?

This is a complicated question. It is of course helpful if scientific results are openly available, but this is primarily of value to other scientists. Laypeople are not typically in a position to judge whether scientific research articles have problems. In my view, the issue of public trust in science is more something that should be addressed by finding ways to counter disinformation on the web, or poor reporting by journalists.

Could you reflect on your experiences with open access and open science in general?

I think that open access is becoming more and more the norm. This has great advantages to the world-wide scientific community, since there are still parts of the world where scientific journals are not readily affordable and available. 

The issue of open science is different and in a way more complicated. There are many aspects to consider but there are some things I think we should be careful about. One is that it doesn’t also open the door to even more misinformation, through circulation of unvetted results. Another is that we need to be careful not to allow the idea to be used against scientists — as has happened for example with harassment of climate scientists in the United States in particular in the name of openness.

How could open science open the door to more misinformation through the circulation of unvetted results, could you expand on this? 

Open science makes scientific findings visible and accessible when they are still at an early stage of development. But sometimes these will be found to be flawed and will subsequently be corrected by internal review by the scientists themselves or by peer review processes. This means that there is an inherent risk with open science that early mistakes enter into public circulation. It is extremely hard to correct misinformation once it is widely distributed.

Useful links:

Leah Henderson´s personal website presents an overview of her research interests and her scientific work. 

Funder policies: Most research funding organizations require publications resulting from publicly funded grants to be published open access. Most funders allow article processing charges to be paid from grant money, although conditions apply. See this support page for more information about funder policies.

Open access books: Increasingly, it is also possible to publish books open access. If you have questions or want to know more, contact us.

Open access journal browser: search engine that can be used to check if a discount on the article processing charge (APC) is available for a specific journal. UG corresponding authors can publish with an APC discount (mostly 100%, so for free) in more than 12.000 journals! 


Henderson, L., Gebharter, A. The role of source reliability in belief polarisation. Synthese (2021). 

If you would like us to highlight your open access publication here, please get in touch with us

About the author

Open Access Team
The Open Access team of the University of Groningen Library

Link: /openaccess
Follow us onfacebook twitter instagram