Progress is important in science, but true progress is attained through "criticism, skepticism and debate," writes John Beddington, the UK government's chief scientific advisor, in New Scientist. "Great" researchers challenge the status quo, but only if they have the facts and evidence to back themselves up, Beddington says, and if their challenge stands up to scrutiny, they should be "celebrated." But researchers should also be careful that they don't become "fixated on divergence," especially in the face of consensus that has been built on evidence and fact, he adds. Uncertainty in science will always exist, but researchers shouldn't be afraid of communicating them. "Indeed, as scientists we must be more transparent, more open to describing the gaps in our knowledge," Beddington says. "Skepticism is the driving force for further discovery and better evidence." The challenge is in making both evidence and uncertainty public so that the research community can better challenge those who misuse scientific evidence to their own ends, he adds.
A Challenge for Scientists
Feb 21, 2011