'Ask for evidence' campaign launched

Monday 19th Sep 2011 by theWeather Club

The ‘Ask for Evidence’ campaign has been launched by Sense About Science, a charity that aims to help people make sense of science in the public domain. The charity sets out to respond to the misrepresentation of science and scientific evidence on issues that matter to society, and to work with scientists and civic groups to increase understanding of the insights of scientific reasoning.

The public domain is awash with scientific and medical information in advertisements, product websites, advice columns, campaign statements, celebrity fads and policy announcements. Even where there is regulation, claims that are not based on good evidence keep reappearing. Sense About Science believes that the only way to address this is to enable the public to ask questions about the evidence behind such claims for themselves.

The charity takes a multi-pronged approach to the complex issue of science’s place in the public domain. Firstly it aims to help people make sense of current science-based discussions. Secondly it stands up for scientific inquiry, free from stigma, intimidation, hysteria or censorship. It also wants members of the public – whether they have a science background or not – to demand the evidence when science is used in any debate relating to public life.

Professor Paul Hardaker, chief executive of the Royal Meteorological Society says: “In areas of science such as meteorology where policy is being made, understanding how conclusions have been reached, it can sometimes seem difficult to distinguish personal opinion from scientific evidence – it is important to search out the underpinning evidence.”

One area of particular concern is the growing number of attempts to use the courts to suppress evidence-based questioning of pseudo-scientific concepts or the pronouncements of vested interests. Sense About Science works closely with The Libel Reform Campaign to try to stop this creeping form of scientific censorship.

With a database of over 5,000 scientists, from Nobel prizewinners to post-docs and PhD students, the organisation works in partnership with scientific bodies, research publishers, policy makers, the public and the media. The aim of all this activity is to change the nature of public discussions about science and evidence, and lead to a better understanding of science’s contributions to contemporary debates.