Scientists Standing Up for Good Science

The discussion of Paul Offit’s Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure continues at the Scienceblogs Book Club. In his last post, Paul Offit answered some of the questions that have been brought up regarding his book. Here is his answer to a question regarding the public role of scientists:

“Regarding scientists standing up for good science: I think that scientists have been reluctant to enter the vaccine-autism fray for many reasons. The skills required to perform good science, write scientific papers, and present data in front of a scientific audience are different from those required to describe science to a reporter or reduce complex issues to sound bites on television. And standing in front of a national television audience is not a natural act. Also, to bastardize Dickens, the media is an ass. Scientists actually believe in truth. It make take weeks or months or years to get to that truth, and one may never get to it, but I think we believe that it’s there. And although I have encountered several people in the media who really do want to get it right, most are just interested in holding the whetted finger to the wind and promote controversy even when a scientific controversy doesn’t exist. All under the journalistic mantra of balance, when public education is better served by perspective. For many scientists, this is a very hard process in which to participate.”—Paul Offit, ScienceBlogs Book Club

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