Seminar Colour Guide:              
Science and Society
Friday, 26 February 2021, 14:00Add to calendarChallenging the Misrepresentation of Science and Evidence in Public LifeTracey Brown, OBE, Sense About Science, United KingdomHost: Lucia von BredowVirtual seminar, EMBL Grenoble
Abstract: There is much concern about the public regard for standards and norms of evidence and anxiety that carefully assembled facts and data are becoming seemingly dispensable. In 2016, ‘post-truth’ officially entered the dictionary; in the years since, commentators have worried that societies are no longer interested in the carefully assembled data and conclusions of scientific inquiry. Across Europe, conferences have sprung up among research and regulatory bodies asking how to operate in a world of Facebook filter bubbles and alternative facts. Amid this anxiety, we are in danger of seeing only memes that reinforce it, of believing that people just hear what they are already disposed to hear, that there is no scope for persuasion and factual credibility is pointless. Sense about Science’s experience of working with the public tells a different story - in fact, many different stories, of the public interest in sound science and evidence. That interest in science and evidence is borne out in surveys: scientists are still trusted to tell the truth and are the only group to enjoy consistently strong public trust since the 1970s. In the UK, an Ipsos MORI 2016 poll found that 86% of people want the government to consult experts on complex subjects. Working with the public reminds us that monitoring and analysing are key to public empowerment and democratic accountability; and it expands our imagination about how researchers can collaborate with the public more effectively. Sense about Science's public-led, expert-fed approach has served up some interesting lessons for discussion. The question before the research world therefore is how to equip people to make sense of their natural and social systems: how can we truly embark on those journeys together, with the public and in the public interest?