Author: César Carrillo Trueba – Revista Ciencias, Facultad de Ciencias, UNAM, Mexico


  • Andrea Geipel – Technical University of Munich and Deutsches Museum Munich, Germany
  • Lê Nguyên Hoang – École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland
  • Craig Rosa – KQED, United States
  • Gianna Savoie – University of Otago, New Zealand

Much has been said about the problem in science communication caused by the habit of publicizing results the way they are presented by investigators – “translated,” as it were – abstracting the process through which they were determined (what Bruno Latour calls “black boxes”). Processes for producing knowledge tend to be complex, sometimes intricate, as we have seen in recent months since COVID-19 pandemic started. The competition between research laboratories, pharmaceutical companies and the politicians and governments of each country, the will to demonstrate the truth when everything is uncertain, have led us into a swamp of information, one in which we’ve almost drowned.

One very concrete case was when some laboratories announced the virus’s expected lifespan on different surfaces – from three hours to several days – without verifying if it was still capable of infecting someone, a simple, but variable factor. It provoked great alarm. These were articles published in scientific journals, and were therefore hard to characterize as fake news, but there was a lack of context and insensitivity as to how this news would be taken. How should we then handle situations in which science generates information that is confusing or that could be disproven within weeks?

For years, I have been arguing for the role of the science critic – similar to the art critic – who contextualizes scientific results, makes research processes clear and explains the stakes and the political, economic, ideological, etc. interests at play, even serving as a stepping-stone between research on science communication and its communicators. The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly shown that, without this level of analysis, our role as communicators is weak, null or even negative. We need to contextualize and integrate, an urgent task in these times. This paper is about it.

The author has not yet submitted a copy of the full paper.

Presentation type: Insight talk
Theme: Transformation

Author: César Carrillo-Trueba

As often occurs in any “revolution,” its imminent arrival appears to sweep away all traces of the previous regime, whether in the sphere of politics or in that of science and technology. However, that is never completely true. The French revolution exalted secularism as a core value of the new state, but having taken over government ended up finding popular religious beliefs useful. Something very similar has occurred in the realm of printed media, as the expansion of the worldwide web has appeared to condemn them to disappearance, ushering in a new age in which paper would cease to be used entirely and digital media would reign supreme. At several years’ distance from such a mirage, we find that not only do books and magazines persist, they flourish and coexist harmoniously with their digital counterparts. In fact, the virtual makes the printed visible and alerts a vast audience to new publications, while print media incite readers to go on line to expand their understanding if topics they absorb through paper and ink. Also, as Umberto Eco insightfully observes, the profusion of websites with information of dubious quality makes it essential to exercise criticism in print, like a beacon which helps sailors navigate a turbulent sea, brimming with duplications, falsehoods, and banalities, and helps enhance its value as a resource. The core issue involves the articulation of both worlds, the realization of their complementariness. Based on the experience we have accumulated in the magazine Ciencias, at the National Autonomous University of Mexico -, this lecture analyzes several facets of the debate, which has not yet ended and, due to the accelerated growth of the web, remains highly relevant, while continuing to pose a dilemma for many publications and editors who continue to see a threat to their future in such predictions.