The Research School of Behavioural and Cognitive Neurosciences (BCN) is an interfaculty organisation at the University of Groningen. BCN represents and coordinates the neuroscience research of the University of Groningen. BCN's research mission is to bring together interdisciplinary research at different levels, specifications of brain activity at the molecular or cellular level, analyses of physical and mental operations, up to the complex level of information processing. The BCN community cares deeply about matters of truth in science and previously hosted the Nothing But The Truth Symposium in 2021. This year it looks forward to hosting Nothing But The Truth conference, which will serve as part of a course requirement for its PhD trainees.
What Is Truth?
Questions on the nature of truth and its connections to method and process are central to Science and have historically been the subject of much philosophical debate and theory. Today too, there are newfound concerns about the truthfulness of Science, in both the public and scientific arenas. Within the scientific community, there is a growing awareness of problems in the way research is organized. Controversial issues include the low reproducibility of findings across a number of fields, competition between scientists and journals for high impact papers and the race for ‘first findings’, the importance of the current rating systems for individual research careers, the role of the funding system and the influence of different commercial interests.
It is broadly recognized that one of the fundamental characteristics of science and its methods is trustworthiness. Research and government organizations are adapting policies towards more Open Science practices, reproducibility, and scientific integrity. Clearly, systemic change is complex and new dilemmas arise in the transformation process. Simultaneously, society appears more skeptical towards scientific discoveries, arguments, and recommendations than before. At the same time, the spread of misinformation to support various agendas on various platforms and through many communities and groups serves to increase mistrust and capitalise on the inherent uncertainty of what we consider to be true. Policy and opinion makers, citizens, and scientists themselves may have trouble recognizing fact from fiction in a number of important issues, such as climate change, nature conservation, (child) vaccination, food safety, human migration, income inequality, and a host of public safety and medical issues.
The Nothing But The Truth conference focuses on two themes that are crucial for the credibility and impact of science in society:
1. Truth in Science. Which methodologies and criteria does the scientific community accept as yielding valid results, and what mechanisms are, or should be, put in place to prevent the emergence of ‘false facts’ and abuse? On a more fundamental level; what is truth, and how is it time-, place- and person-dependent?
2. The exchange of knowledge between science and society, at the levels of international agencies, national and regional governments, and the general public. How can this be done objectively and with impact when communication and decision-making are often more about sentiments and opinions, than about facts?
In a two-day program, the above issues will be covered by experts in their fields in plenary lectures as well as interactive workshops and debates. Confirmed speakers include Inkeri Koskinen, Anne Ruth Mackor, Sarahanne Field, Stephan Lewandowsky, and Marion Koopmans.
Nothing but the Truth specifically aims to inform young researchers who are in early stages of their careers about these important topics and encourage them to form their own values and opinions. Based on the discussions during the meeting, the organizers hope to output the formulation of a general statement about the use of data as data, facts as facts and how we can maintain and strengthen trust and societal impact of science.
Nothing But The Truth
BCN conference on trust and truth in science