Recap: Online Event on Science Skepticism on May 23, 2022

27. May 2022 YoungScienceScience communication
Grafik eines Kopfes mit Gehirn
Four experts discussed different aspects of scientific skepticism and possible approaches to reduce it.

Under the title "When Trust is Missing. (New) Challenges for Science Communication in the Context of Persistent Science Skepticism", the first major event of the OeAD Center for Citizen Science this year took place on May 23, 2022. It is part of the OeAD campaign #YoungScienceRocks "Living Science - Shaping the Future", which was jointly initiated by the Austrian Federal Ministry for Education, Science and Research (BMBWF) and OeAD. The goal is to take numerous actions together with researchers and teachers against the prevailing skepticism about science.


The high level of skepticism about science in Austria is currently preoccupying actors in politics, the media, science and education. In 2021, a Eurobarometer survey once again confirmed the strikingly negative perception of Austrians of science and technology in a European comparison. It also attests to Austria's need to catch up in the area of science communication. In the Europe-wide survey, more than half of the citizens questioned answered that science plays no role for them in their everyday lives and at least as many considered science to be too complicated.

Online event: keynote and panel discussion

At the beginning of the event, science researcher and Vice Rector of Klagenfurt University Martina Merz reflected on the variable relationship between society and science in her keynote "Between fascination and skepticism: science in public perception". Using selected examples from the past, she recounted that in the 18th century one could speak of a "public science." At that time, the public dealt with the subject of electricity, which was a new invention, in inns, fairs, schools, scholars' parlors, theaters and other places. Throughout history, a growing gap between science and society in the second half of the 20th century can be seen. The "deficit model of science communication" becomes striking. Furthermore, Martina Merz also analysed the current Eurobarometer survey in her keynote and critically examined its results. Her conclusion: the survey, or at least its interpretation, should be treated with caution. In her opinion, a number of questions now arise, such as "What can be learned?", "What speaks for skepticism?" and "What does it correlate with?".

Martina Merz then discussed various aspects of science skepticism with history researcher Claus Oberhauser (University of Education Tyrol/University of Innsbruck), museum director Katrin Vohland (Natural History Museum Vienna), and freelance science communicator and science buster Florian Freistetter: from conspiracy thinking to the role of the media, the recognition of researchers as science communicators, and approaches to strengthening the understanding of science.

The presentation slides of the keynote are available (see "Related Files").