NCUP Seminar series: Truth about Health- Sound Bites or Media Hype?

NCUP Seminar series: Truth about Health- Sound Bites or Media Hype?

Online Seminar Series with 3 or more seminars

(Final Dates to follow according to speaker availability)
  • Seminar 1 (online) – January 2022 – Partial Truths and Conflicting Messages
  • Seminar 2 – March 2022 – Joined up thinking: How do Policy-makers and the Public Decide?
  • Seminar 3 – May 2022 Lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic

Seminar Series Theme – Abstract for seminar series

For many years, media statements made about scientific facts are often contradictory so that it is hard
for the public to determine what is true, what is based on reliable scientific evidence, or what is current
thinking by a minority, only to be overturned when some new finding emerges. These conflicting media
messages have become even more pronounced since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. How such information
is understood firstly by the media, then by the public, will depend upon key factors. These are
usefully laid out in Hodges Model which examines the interplay between sciences, politics, sociology
and interpersonal skills. For example, we need to consider the relationships between scientific facts, the
science behind them, the beliefs of the politicians, the media and the public and the relationship between
the providers of information and the receptive audience. There has always been a striving for evidence-based
practice, but evidence changes as a consequence of outputs from new studies and/or new interpretations.
Issues we shall address in this series range from matters without life and death immediacy, such
as the safe consumption limits of various food stuffs, to more urgent issues such as which of the Covid-
19 vaccines is safest and most effective for our protection. This seminar series aims to address many of
these contradictions and bring clarity to complex health issues which affect all of us.

Seminar 1 (January 2022) – Partial truths and conflicting messages

This seminar addresses the partial truths often created by loss in public perception of the validity of substantial
university research. This is exacerbated by media messages based on insufficient understanding
of the rigours of science and what can therefore be relied upon.
  • 09.50 – 10.00 Online log in – MSTeam
  • 10.00 – 10.20 Introduction: Purpose of the Series – Partial and impartial truth. Chairperson: Professor Margaret Cox (King’s College London and NCUP Past-President)
  • 10.25 – 11.15 Chinese Whispers? Conflicting messages from Scientific and Medical Research. Professor David Walton (University of Coventry, NCUP Council member)

Summary

We live at a time when statements made about scientific facts are so contradictory
that it is hard for the public to form viable opinions. Issues range from matters without
life and death immediacy, for example, is coffee good or bad for you or how
much salt is it safe to ingest, to more urgent issues such as which of the Covid-19
vaccines are safest and most effective? It seems that nowadays far reaching decisions
can be based on facts which are almost immediately overturned by results from
other studies. As a consequence, there is a loss in public perception of University
research as a touchstone for getting to the truth of the matter. This lecture addresses
examples in science and medicine where a rush to publish may have clouded the issue
and damaged public confidence in the findings.
  • 11.15 – 11.30 Virtual refreshments and comfort break
  • 11.30 – 12.15 Medical Truths – the story so far
  • Prof Roger Highfield. Science Director of the Science Museum/New Scientist (TBC)

Summary

There are many physio/medical treatments and devices available to the public, for
example, in the treatment of arthritis or treating child behavioural problems which
some treat by homeopathy or other popular therapies. How are the public currently
able to know and choose the ones which might be really beneficial, and which ones
are just based on insufficient scientific data, uninformed claims or word of mouth
perhaps via social media? This lecture will elaborate on known reliable and robust
medical findings that are generally accepted by the health community and the world
at large, contrary to the frequent partial or unsubstantiated findings reported in the
media.
  • 12.15 – 13.30 Panel and participation discussion: Co-Chairs: Professor Roger Watson and Professor. George Kernohan. Conflicting messages and interplay between scientific facts, truths, public dissemination and beliefs.
  • 13.30 Close of Seminar 1