Thu. Feb 27th, 2020

"The scientific method is being questioned" | Science

"The scientific method is being questioned" | Science

When entering the Nobel Media building in Stockholm, there is a corridor full of statues on the sides. At the end of it, there is Alfred Nobel's. The last testament of the inventor of the dynamite indicated that his fortune should be used to create the prizes that today bear his name and recognize the work of professionals in different fields such as physics, chemistry, or medicine. In the same building, a few floors above, Laura Sprechmann, CEO of Nobel Media, receives EL PAÍS in a room full of portraits of the latest winners of a Nobel prize. Among them are the American James Allison and the Japanese Tasuku Honjo, both winners of the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2018, or Frances H. Arnold, awarded for her research in Chemistry. "In recent years there has been a kind of erosion of what an expert is and a general distrust or confusion in science," says Sprechmann as he watches the plates painted each year by artist Niklas Elmehed.

But this challenge is not new: "We have had propaganda that provoked mistrust towards scientists before. But now we have the channels to communicate and disseminate everything in a totally different way than it was 20, 50 or 100 years ago. " For her, the climate discussion is a good example. "The science is very clear, but many people are disclosing information that is not true. Scientific methods are questioned today and it is a difficult situation considering that the scientific method is based on the fact that things must always be questioned, "he says.

To face this challenge, he considers it essential to have the ability to communicate and present facts. Remember how the will of Alfred Nobel in his testament of 1895 was to award prizes to those who carried out "the greatest benefit to humanity." "We have the obligation to contribute knowledge and strengthen people who want to listen and learn" , he says.

With this objective, the entity organizes since 2012 in countries around the world the Nobel Prize Dialogue. It is a free event in which several Nobel prizes and experts debate for a day about the global challenges of humanity. For example, about energy, artificial intelligence, food, water, education or truth.

Winners of the Nobel Prize as Vargas Llosa and Edvard Moser will debate in Madrid in May on the future of aging

On May 22 this year will take place for the first time in Madrid and the future of aging will be discussed. Among other experts, Edvard Moser will attend, winner of the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2014, Y Mario Vargas Llosa, Nobel Prize for Literature in 2010. The writer will have a conversation with the poet Luis Alberto de Cuenca. "We will talk about pensions, social aspects such as the care of the elderly, the biology of aging, diseases such as cancer or dementia or how robots can assist the elderly". In the event, organized by Nobel Media together with the Ramón Areces Foundation, not only will negative aspects be addressed, but also creativity and learning in aging will be discussed.

And we will try to answer several questions: "How long do we want to live and if we are going to live longer, what are we going to do with that time?". Spain will be the country in the world with the highest life expectancy in 2040, according to a study by the University of Washington. The report indicates that Spaniards will reach 85.8, almost three years above the current average. "The retirement age is also a debate, since we have healthier lives and there are certain jobs where it is not necessary to stop at a certain age because they do not require physical effort," says Sprechmann in an interview in Stockholm on a trip to El Pais. He has been invited by the Swedish Institute and the Swedish Embassy in Madrid.

In addition to sharing knowledge, it is intended that experts can serve as references for young people. "They have tremendous personal stories. If you hear that a Nobel Prize in chemistry when he went to school, he got bad grades in chemistry and you are 13 years old, you are in school and you have problems with the subject, you will think that nothing is impossible. It is the importance of failing and making mistakes, "says the CEO of Nobel Media.

Few women awarded

Having women as referents is very important for girls, especially considering that women scientists have been displaced to the background or relegated to anonymity on numerous occasions throughout history. In fact, when observing the portraits of the Nobel prizes hanging on the wall, it is striking that of the 12 winners in 2018, only three are women. The Iraqi Nadia Murad, who was enslaved and sexually assaulted by the jihadist group ISIS, won the Nobel Peace Prize. The American Frances H. Arnold He won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for having "taken control of evolution and having used his same principles to develop proteins that solve many of humanity's problems". The Canadian Donna Strickland He was Nobel Prize in Physics for his "breakthrough inventions in the field of laser physics ".

"We can not change the history, but we can pay attention that for example there is a balance in the speakers who attend conferences. It is not acceptable to make the excuse that there are not enough [mujeres], because there are many "

It is difficult for a girl to feel identified with an award-winning scientist, since the vast majority of the Nobel prizes of science have been received by men. "There is an inequality in the promotions. This does not happen only in science and there are several explanations, "says Sprechmann, who explains that the organization that leads is not involved in the process of selection of the winners. Among the reasons, maternity and the problems of family and work-life balance.

"We can not change the history, but we can pay attention that for example there is a balance in the speakers who attend conferences. It is not acceptable to put the excuse that there are not enough, because there are many, "he says. For her, it is also important to end the biases that make it difficult for women to advance their professional careers at the same pace as men and that, at times, are unconscious: "The selection is based on the nominations. You can encourage people to think about it. If you are aware of your own bias, maybe you start to think in a different way. "


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