April 21, 2024

Discussion: A call for “compliant science”

The immigration researcher said researchers should “engage with the world’s problems, offer solutions, not shy away from rhetoric and have an attitude towards the big questions based on scientific evidence.” Judith Kollenberger At a press conference in Vienna, “Web of Science Speech” was hosted.

Scientists are depicted as toast

Kohlenberger said that although the world seems to many to be increasingly confusing and in crisis and thus calls for categorization, scientists are increasingly seen as disconnected from the realities of life, from the world outside the ivory tower. Because scientific objectivity as a core value is often experienced as a “quiet distance to the point of elitist detachment,” it is thus easier for populist movements to portray scientists as elites.

Politicians will have limited help with statements like “Science is one thing, facts are another”. “The suspicion of science and even hostility to science in Austria is not accidental if it is not motivated by the highest authority,” Kollenberger says.

Austria, a pioneer in climate protection: just a fairy tale

in the debate on the climate crisis Reinhard Storer, professor of climate policy at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BUKU) Vienna, “a lot of nonsense that defines political discourse” and where scientists have to constantly correct when there is talk of “climate overprotection” that “leads to the Stone Age”, From “doomsday madness” or from the fact that “the climate crisis can be solved with technology alone”. All of this denies the scientific consensus and it is “a direct denial of science when someone argues against the prohibition of reasoning and openness to technology and common sense. This is an attempt to undermine the laws of physics.”

As a scientist, it’s hard to get messages across because politicians “tell fun fairy tales, eg that Austria is a leader in climate protection, we can solve all this with technology, etc. – who doesn’t like to hear that. We are called upon to point out that these are lies.” Partly, partly self-deception,” Storer says. When scientists try to counter this, “Let’s not make ourselves a people—it’s an uncomfortable job at the moment, because what we say are uncomfortable facts—and the easiest way to deal with that is with skepticism.” Because of this, more and more scientists are no longer turning to politics: “I’ve already given up on that. That’s why we’re taking to the streets, getting behind climate activists and seeing more potential in this to encourage a rethinking of society,” Storer says.

More “science literacy” required

Virus scientist Andreas Berthaler of the Medical University of Vienna, however, cautioned against making things easier on oneself and only berating politics and politicians, because one lives in a democracy. “We have so far failed to publicize these topics so widely that appropriate politicians who represent these views are elected,” he also sees as the responsibility of science. There is enough to criticize the policy, “but in fact our aim should be how to manage views that tend to rationalize more strongly in the long run. To do that, we need to reach out to young people in particular.”

And countries with a higher level of “scientific literacy,” that is, basic scientific education, will find it easier to do so. “If residents try to deal with complex situations rationally very early on and see solutions not just in grand water or homeopathy,” Bergthaler says, “one can handle complex situations much better.”

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Portugal, which ten years ago still matched Austria for last place in the Eurobarometer survey on scientific interest, managed within a short time to significantly increase this “scientific knowledge” by expanding science centers and increasing participation in schools. “Science communication as a bulwark against scientific skepticism needs resources,” Kohlenberger noted, “just like science journalism in this country needs resources.”