During my visit to the Euroscience Open Forum in Dublin last week, I participated in a panel discussion entitled ‘Science Advice for European Policy’ organised by the UK charitable trust Sense about Science. This organisation aims to equip people to make sense of science and evidence on issues that matter to society.
Among the valuable information on their website is the leaflet “I don’t know what to believe …” (PDF) which describes how scientists present and judge research and how you can ask questions about scientific information presented to you.
It points out the central role of the peer review process in validating research, and explains the clear distinction between statements made in peer-reviewed scientific journals and the often unsupported claims made by interest groups that can appear in the mass media. As Sense about Science points out, the first thing to ask when assessing a research claim made in the media is “Is it peer reviewed? If not, why not?”. Well worth a read.