Last Friday our #DiversityJC got together to discuss the dangers of misinterpreted results. Fivethirtyeight’s piece we brought to your attention explained how Trump uses the peer-reviewed article Do non-citizens vote in U.S. elections? as an argument to restrict immigration. You can see the full Storify of the discussion here.
We wanted to discuss two main points: first, what happens when science goes out in the wider world, especially with newer findings on particularly polarized topics? And second, what harms the misinterpretation of a study like this, on a polarized topic, can bring to scientists and the scientific community?
Research that moves beyond the lab can fall on deaf ears – or be twisted to fit an existing narrative or world view. Scientists need to be careful when describing and interpreting any data, but particularly those researching polarized topics. Several studies by Dr. Dan Kahan demonstrate that people acquire their knowledge mainly by consulting others that share their values, who they trust. Moreover, Dr. Kahan says that “People will selectively credit and discredit information in patterns that reflect their commitment to certain values.”
Yes. Scientists and their science need to be more accessible to the general public. Us, scientists have a tendency to trust more statements coming from scientists than from non-scientists. And that’s mainly because we are familiar with the scientific process, and we trust it. However, most of the general public does not know exactly how the scientific process works, and tend not to relate to the scientists.
Is it just training or also a product of the ‘publish or perish’ culture? Well, if you’re an academic that might be the case, but if you’re a policymaker reading a study, how do you avoid confirmation bias? One common suggestion over all participants was the importance of Science Communication. Translating research results to general audiences, but also the necessity of Science Outreach to prove science is accessible to kids. But also, how science itself view #SciComm. Even though there are a lot of scientists doing it, it still not widely valued or recognized!
In the US, we’ve been in a privileged position; great minds have come to us, a case of success building on itself. Science is global and though has work to do to be more inclusive, scientists do travel & move globally. Science is enriched and diversified by immigration. Due to the hostile USA environment towards immigrants prevalent now, there are already many cases of researchers not willing or able to come to our conferences, due to immigration problems… It is our duty to prevent this from happening!
Thanks to all that joined/listened to our #DiversityJC, and hope to see you next month!
- How scientists migrate: Vast set of public CVs reveals the world’s most migratory scientists
- #DiversityJC January discussion: Addressing entrenched beliefs
- Portrait the scientists as real people: Who’s the scientist?