EDITORIAL

Nip misinformation in the bud

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Science  27 Oct 2017:
Vol. 358, Issue 6362, pp. 427
DOI: 10.1126/science.aar2683

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  • Science is not robust but fragile

    Rick Weiss introduced SciLine (1). He claims that scientific information is critical to rational policy-making. It may be almost true, but not always true. Ohm's law is an empirical law, for example. Ohm's law states that the resistance of a wire is directly proportional to the length of the wire. However, Au can be stretched into conducting chains of individual atoms (2). After a new discovery of the conductance quantum, we understand that the resistance of an atomic conductor does not scale proportional to length (Ohm's law) (2). This means that scientific information is not robust but fragile. Jon Cohen described "Why flu vaccines so often fail" (3). After reading his article, we are not sure whether we should take flu vaccines or not, because of unclear conclusion. SciLine must understand and determine what scientific information has the longer life of "truth", the others do not. Once the lay public misinterpreted, it may be hard to change their misinterpretations. All scientists must understand that scientific information is tentative and freshly true as of Today.

    References:
    1. Rich Weiss, Nip misinformation in the bud, Science 27 Oct 2017, vol. 358, issue 6362, pp.427
    2. J Chen, MA Reed, AM Rawlett, JM Tour: "Large on-off ratios and negative
    differential resistance in a molecular electronic device" Science 286 (1999) 1550-
    1552.
    3. Jon Cohen, Why flu vaccines so often fail...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • RE: Editorial - Nip misinformation in the bud'...
    • Peter Drake, retired teacher, affiliated to those who follow the difficult path delineated by the facts..

    It was heartening to read your editorial calling on scientists [yet again] to solve the problem of misinformation; like a terminally ill patient hearing heartening prognosis’s of distant summers, never to come.

    I’m getting near to my 7th decade and getting near the ‘truth’ has never really been a problem.
    AAAS, The New Scientist and other sources of generalist but accurate as far as can be, facts have been around, for as long as my adult life at least.

    The decision to read such sources, - and eschew the general press, media like fox news and latterly to only ‘enjoy’ multimedia like face book with an enormous pinch of salt was made many decades ago and has kept me on the straight and narrow.

    This option was open to me decades ago as it is now to all.

    How one is induced to make such decisions is the problem…

    Science based Education?

    This seems to me the only possible answer, - education from a very young age and during those compulsory years in ‘scientific’, objective thinking.

    However having been involved in teaching adults older children - for many years, including some of the problems facing mankind such as global warming, [including the contrary opinions], I have come to realise that one is often as not, shouting into the wind.

    If teaching, inculcating logic, objective, 'scientific' thinking, recognising ‘fake news’ and such, is to work perhaps it would need to be right from the start, at a...

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    Competing Interests: None declared.
  • RE: Nip Misinformation in the Bud

    I very much agree. That is why I am extremely disappointed in the journal "Science" for publishing and refusing to correct a misleading article. Rick, since you worked at DoD you likely have heard about nerve agents. And for everything they are, they are not neonicotinoid pesticides. Calling neonicotinoids nerve agents is misleading and incites fear. Neonicotinoids are not innocuous but they are not nerve agents. They work on nicotinic acetylcholinergic receptors on neurons which are very different receptors than those which nerve agents affect. Hundreds of other chemicals also work on neuron receptors, caffeine, nicotine, etc, and they are not called nerve agents. The journal Science should be ashamed for publishing a fear mongering, misleading article. The journal Science should be scientific and objective in its publications. Shame, shame.

    Competing Interests: None declared.

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