Opening up Science—to Skeptics

Essay by Rohan R. Arcot  and Hunter Gehlbach: “Recently, the soaring trajectory of science skepticism seems to be rivaled only by global temperatures. Empirically established facts—around vaccines, elections, climate science, and the like—face potent headwinds. Despite the scientific consensus on these issues, much of the public remains unconvinced. In turn, science skepticism threatens our health, the health of our democracy, and the health of our planet.  

The research community is no stranger to skepticism. Its own members have been questioning the integrity of many scientific findings with particular intensity of late. In response, we have seen a swell of open science norms and practices, which provide greater transparency about key procedural details of the research process, mitigating many research skeptics’ misgivings. These open practices greatly facilitate how science is communicated—but only between scientists. 

Given the present historical moment’s critical need for science, we wondered: What if scientists allowed skeptics in the general public to look under the hood at how their studies were conducted? Could opening up the basic ideas of open science beyond scholars help combat the epidemic of science skepticism?  

Intrigued by this possibility, we sought a qualified skeptic and returned to Rohan’s father. If we could chaperone someone through a scientific journey—a person who could vicariously experience the key steps along the way—could our openness assuage their skepticism?…(More)”.