Think tanks for or against science: Examples of recent anti-science rhetorics

Think tanks for or against science: Examples of recent anti-science rhetorics

Author: Satu Lipponen – Cancer Society of Finland, Finland

Think tanks are a part of the active stakeholders participating in discussion about science. They often help in building up the so-called ‘echo chamber’ with reports and other interventions in the public sphere. Think tanks are used to influence both media and public opinion. Industry-supported think tanks blur people’s opinions with science. This is a challenge for policy makers, media and science journalism.

The aim was to identify existing and new schemes typical of the think tanks close to industries, with a special focus on how the tobacco industry tactic of discrediting science evolves. This was done by comparing the rhetoric used in published reports and publicity operations in three cases. According to preliminary results think tanks are actively used to influence public opinion. Basic rhetorical stratagems include criticism of regulation, strong support for freedom of choice, and the separation of state from free market economy mechanisms. In Europe, there seems to be an ongoing attack against civil society aimed at strengthening anti-science attitudes.

It is important to bring into public discussion how think tanks are funded and what sort of agenda they have in public. Journalists of specific interest in research, scientific methods and medical topics are critical stakeholders. More coverage is needed of industry ties to think tanks, as the public and journalists are not aware of these connections.

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

Presentation type: Show, tell and talk
Theme: Society
Area of interest: Influencing policies through science communication