Theme outline

Theme outline

In the recent years, both in the public and scientific arenas, the truthfulness of Science has become an important point of debate. Within the scientific community, there is a growing awareness of problems in the way research is organised. Controversial issues include poor reproducibility of findings, competition between scientists and journals for high impact papers, the race for ‘first findings’, the role of the funding system and the influence of different commercial interests. Unfortunately, even in science, there is also the case of fraud. It is broadly recognised that science needs to be(come) trustworthy (again). Currently, research and government organisations are adapting policies towards ‘open science’, reproducibility and scientific integrity. Clearly, systemic change is complex and new dilemmas arise in this transformation process. 

Simultaneously, society appears more sceptical towards scientific facts than before. This has been especially visible in the latest developments regarding the coronavirus, in which the public is asked to trust in the science being delivered to them in the form of containment measures or vaccines, and a growing number of people find these to not be trustworthy enough. Politicians, opinion makers and the general public may have trouble recognising fact from fiction and ‘alternative facts’ are used to support different agendas. Important issues include climate change, nature conservation, child vaccination, food safety, human migration, income inequality and medical issues such as the recent spread of the coronavirus. Politicians, administrators and commercial parties can be selective in what they accept as fact, or may sometimes actively manipulate the way results of scientific research are presented. 

The symposium focuses on two themes that are crucial for the credibility and impact of science in society:  

  1. Organization of science: What methodology and criteria does the scientific community accept as yielding valid (trustful) results? What mechanisms play a role in selecting relevant research topics? What mechanisms are, or should be, put in place to prevent the emergence of ‘false facts’ and abuse? What does that mean for individual careers and funding policies?   

  2. Communication of scientific findings (‘the truth’) to society: At the levels of international agencies, national and regional governments, and the general public. How can this be done objectively and with impact in a world in which communication and decision-making is often more about sentiments and opinions, than about facts? And on a more fundamental level; does ‘the truth’ exist at all, or is it time-, place- and person-dependent?

In a one-day program on the 1st of November 2021 in Groningen, these issues will be covered by experts in their fields in plenary lectures as well as interactive workshops. Confirmed speakers include John Ioannidis, Eric-Jan Wagenmakers and others. 

‘Nothing but the Truth’ aims to especially inform researchers who are in early stages of their careers about these important topics and provide input to form their own values and opinions. Based on the discussions during the meeting, the organizers would welcome 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 academia.

'Nothing but the Truth'

BCN symposium on trust and truth in science