This is the age of the pandemic. And that is truly terrifying. But it is also the age of the “infodemic,” and that too has some chilling features. We are relentlessly bombarded by a tsunami of information, the reliability of which is often questionable, especially when the source is social media. When it comes to controversial issues, be it in the area of medicine, nutrition, or environmental concerns, bloggers and politicians with sketchy relevant backgrounds are as likely to throw their hat into the ring as scientific experts. Unfortunately, in the public eye, the divergent opinions of these groups are often given equal weight.
In face of the seriousness of the health and societal problems we have to confront, judging the trustworthiness of the information we use to guide ourselves is becoming more and more critical. However, making such judgments is not an easy matter. Possible vested interests, evaluation of appropriate expertise, sources of published information, extent of peer review, scientific plausibility, the difference between anecdote and evidence, reliance on confirmation bias, distinguishing between correlation and causation, and the reproducibility of cited research all have to be considered before we jump onto one of the many bandwagons that are rolling by. This year, to reduce the risk of leaping onto one that is destined to crash, the Trottier Public Science Symposium will address the question of “in whom do we trust?”
The McGill OSS welcomes Anthony Warner, chef and food writer, and Wendy Zukerman, science journalist and host of Science Vs. podcast, to the second evening of the 2020 Trottier Public Science Symposium, “In Whom Do We Trust?”
Anthony Warner – "Ending Hunger - The Quest to Feed the World Without Destroying It”
The production of food has more negative impacts on the planet than any other human activity. Over the next thirty years, we desperately need to make huge changes to the way we produce and consume food, otherwise, the effect on the natural world will be devastating. This talk will explain how misinformation is one of the most powerful forces preventing this from happening and explore a series of cognitive biases that push us towards misinformation on these issues, thereby resulting in widespread confusion, apathy, and lack of action.
Wendy Zukerman – “Science journalism during the Pandemic: How do you keep up with the facts and the fears”
This year, Science took center stage as we all scrambled to understand "the curve", "fomites" and single-stranded-RNA. For months - science was in the headlines, as people demanded and needed the facts, not just for their own curiosity but to keep themselves and their families safe. But science didn't have the answers immediately. And so, to fill the vacuum, came the misinformation, and the conspiracy theories. With every new kernel of science that was published, came ten hydra heads of exaggeration and confusion. So as a science journalist - how do you keep up? How do you report the science in a satisfying way, when the answers aren't satisfying? How do you balance fear with facts?
For more information on the #Trottier2020 speakers, please visit the "In Whom Do We Trust?" website.
Watch the presentations on YouTube.
The Trottier Foundation is a proud supporter of the McGill Office for Science and Society’s Public Science Symposium and believes it is a vital vehicle to promoting scientific communication and presenting scientific information to a broader audience.
Established in 2000 by Lorne Trottier and Louise Rousselle Trottier, The Trottier Family Foundation is a Montreal-based private Canadian charitable foundation whose mission is
to provide support to organizations that work towards the advancement of scientific inquiry, the promotion of education, fostering better health, protecting the environment and mitigating climate change. The Foundation believes that science, the environment, health, and education are crucial pillars in building a better world.