Science on the verge: Is there really a crisis in science?
Andrea Saltelli from University of Bergen (UIB) and ICTA - Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (UAB) gives interesting lecture at DTU. Tea, coffee and cake will be served.
About the seminar
Is there really a crisis in science? One could argue that the increased number of retractions are a result of increased transparency and accessibility rather than a result of falling standards. It descends that good science is not in crisis and never was and that what we see is the emergence and diffusion of bad science. Of course we leave out - accepting this view - intentional use of science to deceit, e.g. for commercial ends (examples on tabacco, pesticides, GMO, sugar). We also leave out the 'other' science - the citizen or DIY (Do It Yourself) kind. Yet the impression is that many influential and informed observers are deeply concerned about the degeneration of science qua science. Editorials in Nature and Lancet are rather eloquent on the topic. One may suspect that all those who need to know (e.g. in ministries and international agencies) know that science is in deep crisis. When there is a commercial interest at stake the corrupt science is more or less quickly discovered (see the case of Theranos; preclinical cancer trials could also be a case in point as these pharma have a considerable commercial value). In other cases sloppy science more or less lingers into the system but any time a replication meta-study is commissioned the results are a disaster, as happened in psychology. There is a rich literature on the topic, see references in . Predictive model based science can safely persist in its fantasies as nobody can disprove today things which should happen tomorrow (climate and nuclear are two areas where this kind of industry is flourishing). One may of course have a strategic interest in denying that all this is taking place - e.g. one could lament that all these talks of corrupted science are a serious threat to the funding of science. Science advisers may fear that a collapse of trust in science may undermine their role. At the same time ignoring the crisis may accelerate a process of loss of trust.
More recently the crisis has taken a new twist: after BREXIT, the election of Donald Trump and the brouhaha on the post-truth policies, science wars been declared by science against the enemies of science, taking issues such as climate and vaccines as flagships, and a march on Washington in being organized by scientists worldwide.
We describe alternative diagnoses which have been put forward to explain the origin and the nature of the crisis and report on existing remedies being suggested from concerned individual scientists and science institutions. Finally we make some hypotheses on ‘solutions from without’, e.g. from civil society.
About the speaker
Andrea Saltelli has worked on physical chemistry, environmental sciences, applied statistics, impact assessment and science for policy. His main disciplinary focus is on sensitivity analysis of model output, a discipline where statistical tools are used to interpret the output from mathematical or computational models, and on sensitivity auditing, an extension of sensitivity analysis to the entire evidence-generating process in a policy context. At present he is in at the European Centre for Governance in Complexity, a joint undertaking of the Centre for the Study of the Sciences and the Humanities (SVT) - University of Bergen (UIB), and of the Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia Ambientals (ICTA) -Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (UAB). The ECGC is located in the UAB campus in Barcelona.