Fake news – does it concern us?

Per BakkeThis week I have attended the annual ATS (American Thoracic Society) conference in Washington. One of the sessions at the conference was about global warming and lung health. The first part of the session was science, the other politics. This editorial will deal with the latter. One of the speakers was Carol Browner, who served as director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy under the Obama administration, and is also a previous head of the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). She presented a rather shocking outline of the methods used by the oil, coal and automobile industry to misinform about global warming and health consequences. These methods make those used by the tobacco industry regarding cigarette smoking and health to look like nothing. These industries are now backed by the current head of EPA under the Trump administration, Scott  Pruitt. He has now laid off scientists, closed EPA web pages, and is planning to reduce the agency by about one third.

Does this concern us? Yes, as it does all of us, but also according to the ex-head of EPA, Carol Browner, particularly so as researchers. In this case, it affects particularly scientists into climate and health. The next time it could be other topics.

As researchers, we have traditionally had little interest to communicate our knowledge to the population at large. What is important is the scientific journals. However, times have changed, and so must we. Scientific publications does not exclude dissemination to the public. A good example is the communication about consequences of lack of vaccination that Becky and Kristin from K2 had last year.

Fake news and alternative facts should be opposed. This is a particularly responsibility for university employees!


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