When Melinda Wenner Moyer, a science journalist for The New York Times, was attempting to report on an unexpected aspect of a vaccine’s efficacy or safety, she found that scientists often didn’t want to talk with her. And when she did get them on the phone, she says, a worrying theme emerged: “Scientists are so terrified of the public’s vaccine hesitancy that they are censoring themselves, playing down undesirable findings and perhaps even avoiding undertaking studies that could show unwanted effects. Those who break these unwritten rules are criticized.”
These are tough days for truth and, particularly, for those truths that are supported by evidence that academic experts provide. It’s a strange new world dominated by intentional misinformation and disinformation campaigns, by deliberate hoaxes, and by the slander of solid, verifiable facts as questionable, even false — not to mention the maligning of individual academics. The constant challenges to truth, and the means to arrive at it through informed and reasoned discourse, exacerbate the trend.