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Stanford University School of Medicine

On communicating science and uncertainty: A podcast with John Ioannidis

If you listen to one podcast this week, pick this one. It's a crisp, thought-provoking exchange between health journalism critic Gary Schwitzer, publisher of, and epidemiologist John Ioannidis, MD, DSc, recorded at the recent METRICS (Meta-Research Innovation Center at Stanford) conference. They tackle the state of health journalism and the problems plaguing science, all in just 7 minutes and 49 seconds.

(Quick background: Ioannidis is well-known for his blockbuster 2005 paper, "Why most published research findings are false" - and the first METRICS conference brought together researchers from a variety of fields to examine ways to improve the quality of science.)

Schwitzer points out that from the public's point of view, there's a fine line between critiquing science and declaring the entire scientific enterprise rubbish.

Ioannidis responds:

Science is the best thing that has happened to human beings. One key reason for that is that it helps people think carefully about the world surrounding them and about themselves and their knowledge base...

The way to educate the public is really to offer them science as it is, not in any way that would be more dogmatic than it should be and then have to fight against other types of dogmas. I think we need to tell people that this is why science is important, that it does have that threshold of uncertainly that dogma doesn't have.

Previously: A conversation with John Ioannidis, "the superhero poised to save" medical research, Shake up research rewards to improve accuracy, says Stanford's John Ioannidis and John Ioannidis discusses the popularity of his paper examining the reliability of scientific research 

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