Christmas Eve, all Swedes have one sacred ritual: to watch Donald Duck at 15.00. One of the clips from this one hour show is the one above, and around 5 min into that clip Goofy asks the question “who’s driving?”, whereafter he realizes that it is actually he who is driving. In our society, we are not that far away from that situation: the institutions we have to govern us aren’t really aware of the fact that they are driving. For instance, science is all the time looked to as a source for truth. But there is no sense of responsibility for that truth, or for delivering a balanced view of what all the scientists as a whole believe – which means that one can find any opinion one wants. This must change, and news media journalists must become much more avid searchers for science’s attempts at producing such balanced views. If we get that science-media interaction working, at least our various drivers will have an optimal view of the road ahead of them – and regarding which instruments they can trust to what extent.


I just listened to a really important clip in the only media-critical programme in Sweden: SR’s Medierna. They dealt with a topic that is one of my favourite subjects: how to use science, scientists, and scientific results in news media reporting.

In the clip, they do a critique of a news segment done in the Swedish programme called Kalla Fakta, which was devoted to the potential dangers and benefits of the vaccin Gardasil. Gardasil may be beneficial to treat cervical cancer, but may also give severe neurological disorders. The ranges of claims basically goes from one extreme (not at all dangerous, very beneficial) to the other (evidently dangerous, not at all beneficial), and there seems to exist scientists across this spectrum.

However, even though there exists scientists across the entire spectrum of opinions, this does not mean that there is not an overwhelming consensus to one or the other side. And, if such an overwhelming consensus is the case, it is not objective to report on the matter in a person-against-person fashion, i.e. where both opionions are presented as equally credible.
In other words, the commonly used “objectivity principle” within media does not mean that both sides always should have a say, or at least not an equal say. This was also the point made in the critique against Kalla Fakta’s news segment, and I wholeheartedly agree with it, as a general principle.

Nevertheless, in this particular case, I have no way of knowing whether there is such a scientific consensus on the matter or not – and that is almost impossible to find out without working actively within the field. In other words, to get a balanced overview of the general views of a sub-society within science, and to know which opionions would be judged as extreme and non-representative, is something that is very difficult for a journalist to obtain. Therefore, such a balanced view regarding what the scientific community as a whole believes must be produced from within science. And that is a function and a responsibiltiy that we as a scientific community fail to take. And that is an important thing to change, if science is ever to claim its rightful role as the spearhead of truth in our society – and if we as a society are to be able to use our most state-of-the-art understandings to guide our personal and political decisions.