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Indian Scientists: Mythbusters!

By Shlomo Maital

   There is a huge and growing amount of misinformation, disinformation, lies, conspiracy theories and bizarre ‘facts’ on the Internet about COVID-19.

   In a famous TED lecture in 2015 Bill Gates predicted a catastrophic pandemic that would kill millions. He said we are simply not ready to deal with it. Today, crackpots claim he is responsible for the pandemic. George Soros, too, stars in this role.

     I applaud and embrace a large group of Indian scientists who have decided to fight back. They have set up a superb website to debunk hoaxes.

     Indian Scientists’ Response to CoViD-19 (ISRC) started as a group of Indian scientists who came together voluntarily in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It has now grown to include more than 500 scientists, engineers, technologists, doctors, public health researchers, science communicators, journalists and a number of students; they hail from a range of disciplines but principally the physical and life sciences; they are affiliated to eminent research institutes of science and technology, universities, colleges, hospitals and private laboratories. The group also includes Indian scientists from laboratories all over the world.

      On this website, you can find some 30 such ‘hoaxes’, some of the totally bizarre, and the scientists’ evidence they are totally made up. The material exists in some 20 languages.

I wish American scientists would join together and do the same. 

Here is one example of a myth-buster post: It is clear, simple, easy to read. We need the same in the West…



Four Reasons Why Scientists Can’t Communicate

By Shlomo Maital


     As a professor, I’ve become keenly aware how poor we profs are at communicating our ideas to others, in understandable clear and actionable ways.   I think we economists find meaning in life by confusing the most people we can. Now an expert comes along and explains why. Tim Ward’s blog was published in Society for Conservation Biology News and a relative in NYC passed it on to me.

“Four Mistakes Scientists Make When They Communicate:

  1. Certainty. Scientists are trained skeptics, so they back away from certainty. But outside the realm of science, people interpret expressions of certainty as more likely to be true than expressions of cautious probability. It’s a losing tactic to insist on speaking of certainty only in the scientific sense. Instead, think about how you can speak with certainty in the commonly understood sense. For example, you can say with certainty: “According to NASA, 97% of climate scientists agree the climate is warming. I’m certain the risk is great and we need to act now.”
  2. If you don’t have a seat at the table, you won’t have a voice at the table. We learned this principle from Dr. Alan Thornhill, who now works for the US Department of the Interior. He told us that at many meetings where policy decisions were being made, he was the only scientist in the meeting. There were many times others turned to him with scientific questions, only because he happened to be in the room. During other discussions he would interject with, “Hold on a minute, we have to look at the scientific research on that before we decide.”
  3. Assuming the facts will speak for themselves: they don’t. You must advocate for the facts.   Communicating for influence is a matter of survival of the fittest. It’s not enough to deliver your information. You are competing with other voices. Use memorable quotes and messages to make your facts stick.
  4. Focusing on evidence, not on relevance.   Scientists too readily dive into the details of their research when speaking in public. But in the real world, if people don’t know why the topic is important to them, they won’t pay attention, and they won’t be listening when you get around to relevance at the end of your talk.  In sum, communication is not about output, it’s about impact.”

Blog entries written by Prof. Shlomo Maital

Shlomo Maital