Science and Skepticism

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A symposium sponsored by McGill University’s Biomedical Ethics Unit and Dept. of Epidemiology, Biostatistics, and Occupational Health
Supported by a Gift from the McGill Medicine Class of 1970


Monday, March 19, 2018; 1:00pm-4:00pm

McGill University Faculty Club, Billiard Room




  • Steven Goodman, Professor of Medicine and co-founder and co-director of the Meta-Research Innovation Center at Stanford (METRICS)
  • Richard Harris, Science Correspondent, National Public Radio
  • Philippe Ravaud, Professor of Epidemiology, Paris Descartes University


The past decade has witnessed growing skepticism of scientific research, from two very different sources. On one hand, scientists themselves have turned a skeptical eye on the reliability and utility of scientific research. Meta-researchers – scientists who study science – have exposed serious, systemic problems in health research, including inadequate or poor study design and analysis, perverse professional and economic incentives, and publication practices leading to bias and waste. On the other hand, ‘merchants of doubt’ including tobacco companies, climate-change deniers, and anti-vaccinationists mobilize pseudo-skepticism to increase uncertainty about health research in the service of economic self-interests or preconceived political ideologies. The election of Donald Trump, who has nominated climate-change and vaccine skeptics to senior positions in his administration, indicates the power of anti-science in contemporary North America.

This symposium, which features leaders in meta-research and a respected science journalist, will ask and answer a key question raised by these two trends: how do we expose and improve on bad research practices, without abetting the forces of anti-science? 


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