Scientists can lead the fight against fake news

Fake News 2018

(Fake News, 2017)

This article is brought to you thanks to the strategic cooperation of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Jean-Pierre BourguignonPresident, European Research Council

We are living in a world with a worrying new trend – anti-science sentiment is growing, and “fake news” is posing a threat, as a steady and insidious flow of untrue or misleading stories enter our lives via social media feeds and online news outlets.

We should not let ourselves become accustomed to this dangerous discourse and the current flood of disinformation, or “information disorder” as experts have dubbed this phenomenon. We should never become blasé about it, and we must ensure that education provides young people with the necessary tools to identify false information. Accepting a world in which scientific evidence is no longer the foundation would be detrimental to our society and hamper progress. It would also put democracy at risk.

The disinformation trend is in particular present around elections and political issues, and is spreading to an ever increasing number of areas such as health, the environment, public security and immigration, where scientific knowledge is undoubtedly a direct target. The European Union is taking the issue seriously and has launched several initiatives, including some which call for scientists to counteract disinformation.

In these testing times, we need to reflect upon the forces that can bring us scientists together and the role that the scientific community can play in this process. If we can, we should.

The broader community must get organized and defend a culture in which evidence is based on proven facts, as the scientific method teaches us. Scientists should speak up, not only as specialists but as citizens conscious of the values that underpin their profession – namely the respect for truth, the value of exchange and the importance of questioning. And these values should be shared with and endorsed by all. Many scholars and inspired minds are already going beyond their lab, taking part in this debate and widely sharing their passion for scientific pursuit, driven by sheer curiosity. I call upon more scientists to follow suit and stand up for science.

It goes without saying that researchers do not have some kind of monopoly on the pursuit of truth or virtue. On the contrary, one of the best ways to respond to this attack on science is to step up efforts to expose people from all walks of life to the scientific method – young people in particular. We need to train a new generation of critical minds. Science is not about learning facts by heart, established long ago; it is about knowing how to call into question and move forward. The majority of youth rely mostly on social media to get their news, so we must tackle this issue through improved news literacy, and it is the task of our educators and society at large to teach children how to use doubt intelligently and to understand that uncertainty can be quantified and measured.

The late André Brahic, a leading French astronomer, phrased it beautifully: “To understand the scientific method, one has to realise that progress comes from a continuous process of calling into question. A proposition is only scientific if it is falsifiable, in other words if anyone can verify it or invalidate it.” This is why “the history of scientific ideas is an excellent school of doubt, humility, rigour, honesty and the critical spirit, which are prime virtues in the service of a passion for knowledge.”

Sharing this passion beyond the immediate community is what it is all about at the Annual Meeting of the New Champions, where young scientists have the opportunity to present their cutting-edge results to a diverse group of people. They are all inspirational examples of talent with insatiable curiosity breaking new ground, testing the limits, taking risks in their quest for truth and pushing the borders of knowledge. The European Research Council has entrusted them with long-term support that enables them to develop their most daring scientific ideas in Europe for the benefit of all – for science is a public good that ultimately benefits each and every one of us in countless ways wherever we may be around the globe. This makes it all the more critical that we all stand up for science.

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Trump’s MAGA policy remains unchanged as EU warns to impose additional retaliation tariffs on US products

UN health agency launches week of action to ban lead paint

Tiny Iceland teaches the West how to treat bankers

Sweden is fighting loneliness by housing older and younger generations together

Will COVID-19 lead to the global resurgence of other deadly diseases?

The Junior Enterprise concept, one of the best ways to develop practical skills

Fostering global citizenship in medicine

The world’s economy is only 9% circular. We must be bolder about saving resources

This is Amsterdam’s ambitious plan to turn its transport electric

Project Manager – 2024

Why trust and technology go hand-in-hand

Financial inclusion in India is soaring. Here’s what must happen next

3 ways to use digital identity systems in global supply chains

Republic of Korea President proposes DMZ as future ‘peace and cooperation district’ on Peninsula

‘No shortcuts to a healthier world’: WHO chief sets out health priorities for the decade

Future EU-UK Partnership: European Commission takes first step to launch negotiations with the United Kingdom

“I believe that startups are for grown-up men, those, who have already achieved something “

Ambition, transformation, active citizenship: COP24 looks to next year’s big UN Climate Change Summit

UN allocates $20 million in emergency funding, as Cyclone Idai disaster unfolds

The European Union and the United States sign an agreement on imports of hormone-free beef

From Model T to EV: a short history of motor vehicle manufacturing

On Grexit: Incompetence just launched the historic Ultimatum that could open “pandora’s box”

State aid: Commission approves UK schemes to support SMEs affected by coronavirus outbreak

Love unlimited

UN launches new project to address link between terrorism, arms and crime

Day of the Seafarer: Commissioner Vălean supports the rights of seafarers and their vital role

Coronavirus Global Response: EU sets up a Humanitarian Air Bridge

5G security: Member States report on progress on implementing the EU toolbox and strengthening safety measures

New migration pact highlights key role of business in protecting migrants, say UN experts

Parliaments broadly agree on next steps for economic, monetary union

Brain Drain: Follow your dreams, wherever they might take you

UN Human Rights Council stands firm on LGBTI violence, Syria detainees and Philippines ‘war on drugs’

This is our chance to completely redefine the meaning of work

THE COMMITTEES: ‘All roads lead to the Fifth’

Greferendum: the biggest political gaffe in western modern history to tear Europe apart? #Grexit #Graccident

The Parliament rejects cultivating the wrong seeds of the Commission

Human Rights Council election: 5 things you need to know about it

European Commission adopts rules to ensure a smooth transition to its next President and the next College of Commissioners

A new proposal breaks the stalemate over the Banking Union

Copyright: European Union , 2017; Source: EC - Audiovisual Service; Photo: Frank Molter

EU hits deadlock on the future of glyphosate a month before deadline

In Bali, UN chief Guterres outlines importance of international financial cooperation for sustainable development

Climate change: Another year of record gas emissions, warns UN meteorological agency

Rehn very reserved about growth in Eurozone

China-EU Trade and Economic Relations in Numbers

Dual Food Quality: Commission releases study assessing differences in the composition of EU food products

Thursday’s Daily Brief: Press Freedom Day, Tuna Day, cultural dialogue, #GlobalGoals awards, updates on Syria, Somalia, Mali

UN chief calls for Security Council to work with Myanmar to end ‘horrendous suffering’ of Rohingya refugees

Russia accepts what the EU has to offer and settles to negotiate with Ukraine

Why 2020 will see the birth of the ‘trust economy’

Neelie Kroes at the European Young Innovators Forum: Unconvention 2014

Political solution ‘long overdue’ to protect the children of eastern Ukraine

MEPs want ambitious funding for cross-border projects to connect people

Women in Switzerland have gone on strike – this is why

EU budget for 2019: do more for the young, SMEs and the climate, urge MEPs

The Swiss will pay dearly for voting out fellow Europeans

Malaria: Focus on pregnant women and children, stresses UN health agency report

To solve the climate crisis, we need an investment revolution

Why sustainable packaging is good for profits as well as the planet

Forget about growth without a level playing field for all SMEs

UNcomplicating the UN: a new podcast is born over coffee in New York

More Stings?


Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s