European coordination needed to fight science disinformation, academies say03 May 2021
In this report ALLEA examines the potential of technical and policy measures to tackle science disinformation and calls for improved European exchange and coordination in this field.
While disinformation strategies are intoxicating public discourses in many fields, science disinformation is particularly dangerous to democratic governance and society at large. As highlighted by the ongoing pandemic, an undermining of trust in science poses a fundamental threat to political and individual decisions based on evidence and scientific knowledge.
Over the past years, extensive research and a variety of strategies have been developed and applied to tackle science disinformation. In this report, ALLEA, the European Federation of Academies of Sciences and Humanities, reviews this work, focusing on the roots and consequences of this multi-dimensional phenomenon, as well as practical solutions for policy, technology and communication.
“The science race against Covid-19 has not only been in the search for a vaccine. Another major risk has mobilised researchers: science disinformation. This report identifies key pathways to counter this ‘infodemic’ in future global crises. Seeing these problems unfolding in our societies, we need an institutionalised and coordinated strategy to galvanise researchers, communicators, and policymakers into action as early as possible”, says ALLEA President Antonio Loprieno.
The authors discuss the most prominent psychological, technical and political strategies to counter science disinformation, including inoculation, debunking, recommender systems, fact-checking, raising awareness, media literacy, as well as innovations in science communication and public engagement.
Following an analysis of the consequences of science disinformation in climate change, vaccine hesitancy and pandemics, the report concludes with a series of recommendations. The authors call for:
- a stronger focus on communicating how science works and more dialogue in science communication practices,
- a serious engagement with the public when exercising or communicating research,
- valuing the virtue of intellectual humility when communicating scientific evidence,
- the maintenance of good research practices and high ethical standards to ensure integrity and trustworthiness,
- accountable, honest, transparent, tailored and effective science advice mechanisms.
To implement these proposals, the authors advise to establish a European Centre/Network for Science Communication and a European Code of Conduct for Science Communication.
“Even though there seems to be widespread awareness of the problems and harm caused by disinformation, there is still no coordinated European effort to respond to this with increased and better science communication. While mechanisms of science advice for policy have been introduced on different levels to bridge the gap between scientists and policymakers, no central pan-European mechanism or institution is in place to coordinate existing initiatives and develop coherent guidelines and recommendations on science communication in an inclusive manner”, the authors argue.
ALLEA is the European Federation of Academies of Sciences and Humanities, representing more than 50 academies from over 40 countries in Europe. Since its foundation in 1994, ALLEA speaks out on behalf of its members on the European and international stages, promotes science as a global public good, and facilitates scientific collaboration across borders and disciplines. Jointly with its Member Academies, ALLEA works towards improving the conditions for research, providing the best independent and interdisciplinary science advice, and strengthening the role of science in society. In doing so, it channels the intellectual excellence and experience of European academies for the benefit of the research community, decision-makers and the public.
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