University Main Building 27th June
14:50 – 15:30
Scientific uncertainty is prominent in research that has big implications for society: could the Arctic be ice-free in summer by 2080? Will a new cancer drug be worth its side effects? Will a new strain of ‘flu cause a dangerous epidemic?
Uncertainty is part of scientific research but in public discussion, uncertainty about the frontiers of research is seen as worrying and is presented as a deficiency of research. In some discussions, uncertainty is taken by commentators to mean that anything could be true, including things that are highly unlikely or discredited, or that nothing is known. In politics, uncertainty has been used to suggest that evidence cannot be relied upon, and many implausible products and theories are promoted by emphasising the uncertainty of mainstream knowledge.
However, these are distortions of the working knowledge that we have ,and they reveal a gap between what scientific uncertainty means and how it is portrayed.The panel will discuss the communication of scientific uncertainty and some recent examples.
We will be launching a public guide ‘Making Sense of Uncertainty’ at the session.
(Chair) Dr Leonor Sierra, science writer, University of Rochester
James Painter, Head of Journalism Fellowship Programme, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism
Dr Tabitha Innocent, Scientific Liaison, Sense About Science
Fabio Turone, Science journalist based in Milan, President of Science Writers in Italy, board member of EUSJA