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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

The Need for Transparency in Science

Transparency in Science

Transparency in Science

Trust Project Insights

Sally Lehrman
Nobel Laureate and geneticist Andy Fire summed up an often-overlooked fundamental of science communication at the Rita Allen Scholars 50th Anniversary Symposium recently. “We have to communicate our uncertainty,” he told scientists gathered at Stanford University. Sure, science offers exciting new insights. And experts in contested fields such as climate change and biotechnology deserve respect for their research. But at the Trust Project, we are learning that today’s public wants more than assurances of accuracy and expertise. We find that people want more transparency about the source of the information presented to them. What is the speaker or writer’s agenda? Do they have business ties or other conflicts of interest? People want to know more about the research itself. What previous work was consulted? And, as Fire counsels, what questions remain? What is still uncertain?’s card stacks on science issues offer a good model. The site demystifies complex and fraught topics such as vaccines, but avoids oversimplifying and offers ample resources for people to confirm the text’s claims on their own.
Sally Lehrman is the director of journalism ethics at the Center and runs the Trust Project.  She spoke on accuracy and trust at the Rita Allen Symposium, where she appeared on a panel about science communication.
(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Aug 1, 2016

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