Science and journalism are a matter of method

From Daniel Manca and Gianmario Verona

How to stop the risks of information use in a digital and post-Covid world where social networks are rife? The ability to communicate and a sense of responsibility are necessary

JScientists know this. The study of reality, phenomena, events, the world, continuous development. Science helps put the clues together into a sort of picture of a knowing moment. Unfortunately, Knowledge is an ever-evolving movie. And that this critical rationalism, following the studies of Karl Popper, had transformed into a kind of extreme skepticism which then troubled the philosopher himself. Radical doubts about the origin Information, viral epidemics caused by disinformation traveling the web at the speed of light as media and politics stubbornly ask scientists to make sure they can’t reveal it, if not contextualized for it. moment. Question: But in a digital world and a post-Covid world where science, politics and the media are more and more and will be more and more intertwined, how to avoid informational information?

The recent blockbuster “Don’t Look For” is an excellent opportunity to reflect on the subject. A disoriented high school astronomy teacher, thanks to a ferocious doctoral student, discovers a comet that will wipe out humanity on Earth in six months. However, their awkwardness at communicating is not focused on media attention, the constant search for likes, or the interest of the President of the United States, who initially cared about handling a scandal related to his appointment to the Supreme Court, then only concerned. Use the news as a weapon of collective distraction. Far from fiction, Adam McKay’s film describes the novelty of this pandemic as scientists are called upon every day to describe and comment on today’s realities and whose claims are paradoxically amplified by social networks and often used. by politics. road.

But beyond the film and the epidemic, In a post-Covid world, science will play an increasingly important role in defining the political agenda: The pillars of the next generation of the EU are the technological challenges of environmental transition and digital transformation and the technological domination of American and Chinese multinational companies which is also becoming a political issue with Europe playing the role of regulator. We must add to all this that social networks will have a greater influence than ever in determining the work of the media, which are abandoning print and transforming themselves into content platforms.

What then is the role of science and the media in a context where everyone has a voice and where our confidence is effectively pulled by the jacket of the right and the left, which without any other ideology based on scientific facts (the culprit / not guilty of the vax / no-vax from the film) pandemic)? How to believe science when the media tends to exaggerate the opinions of some skilled scientists rather than comment on the most boring empirically proven evidence?

Let’s start by noting that science is incapable of communicating with masses other than its reference society, Allowing you to publish search results through the precise process of Peer review Based on specialized conferences and technical reviews. Basic and often ambiguous language: Scientists are jokingly said to speak ancient Greek because of long statistical mathematical equations filled with alpha, beta, and gamma. When a scientist becomes involved in disseminating his work, it lends itself well to the game of social media which promotes those who are best able to communicate regardless of the content being transmitted and those who produce the most exciting information without evaluating. its real value, the proper verification of the truth of the traditional media base. The latter, in a world where advertisements on the web travel more likes to followers than displaced content, find themselves in competition with influencers and deserted sites of the masses.

Starting from science, it will be necessary, as a first step, to learn to communicate more effectively while naturally maintaining its own objectives and its independence. We are partly witnessing this with some scientific journals posting the results on Twitter, with some universities offering doctoral courses for teaching (and therefore also for communication as modern education also requires the ability to communicate). , with some scientific journals. which provides an executive summary with the academic summary of the essay. But perhaps all of this will not be enough if we limit ourselves to isolated cases and need to be more courageous, assuming there is a need for society as a whole to embrace the potential for communicating research results. And we must always remember the fundamental distinction between facts (scientifically sound evidence) and opinions (scientists’ ideas not supported by empirical data) and the danger of using the latter when the source is a scientist.

And what about the media? In journalism schools, it is taught with a certain assumption that if in the last century the analogue dominated, the journalist was identified by the fact that he wrote or worked for a medium, in the third millennium, in the era digital, to define journalism as a method. A method similar to the scientific method. Starting from a basic principle: contextualize information. The same goes for science and scientists. But did all of this happen and did it happen? Not much in this epidemic. Unfortunately here is the space The third orgasm, the social network that instantly capitalizes on you by converting the one that shoots the biggest or who says it best into a trend on Twitter.

It is desirable that the web is organized for at least one day at least marginally. But the web will always be an infinitely empty space We must act to stop the information risks which are increasingly likely in the future. It is for those who think they are more responsible, in the most approximate and significant sense of the Italian word responsibility. It’s for scientists and journalists.

Jan 4, 2022 (change Jan 4, 2022 | 10:50 PM)

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