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Professor Mantovani: “The serious media are the real vaccine against fake news”

May 20, 2019

The media? According to Professor Alberto Mantovani, Scientific Director of Humanitas, they could be the real vaccine against the epidemic of fake news in science. It applies to all areas, but even more so to the scientific one: only serious information, certified and produced by professionally valid sources is able to offer the general public correct news and validated by health professionals in the medical-scientific field. And to combat the distrust that many people have towards science and its discoveries.


“Serious disclosure helps the truth.”

For Prof. Mantovani, one of the most cited Italian researchers in international scientific literature, “serious scientific dissemination helps the truth”. The professor has also repeated this in Trento, where he recently went to receive the award of the Pezcoller Foundation and the American Association for Cancer Research for his research on immunology in cancer. The theme of the social responsibility is not only of doctors, but also of newspapers and it goes hand in hand with the ability to communicate the contents of science with a language suitable both for professionals and for those who are not in the field. To ordinary people who have the right and duty to inform themselves. It is a work that starts from the professionals of the sector and ends with the information professionals, able to translate in a simple way complex concepts. A team work that, according to Professor Mantovani, brings people to trust in science.


The refusal to listen to the competent person

To be able to speak to a general public about science and medicine means to transmit trust for and in science, and also in those who dedicate themselves to it by profession or vocation.

“There is a rejection of those who have more skills – said the scientific director of Humanitas -. We live in a country that is largely illiterate, from a scientific point of view. If I say that Messi is a great goalkeeper, 99% of the Italians will laugh. But we hear scientific rubbish of the same level that instead enjoy credibility at all levels.

The problem is not only the lack of scientific culture, but the lack of trust in institutions. A climate that the media and newspapers that write about medicine and health can improve: “The serious and correct information of a great newspaper play a key role – continued Mantovani – a kind of vaccine against false news, the so-called fake news”.


Quality press makes the doctors more responsible

“On the web, a clamorous fake like Wakefield’s on the correlation between autism and vaccines continues to enjoy credibility,” continued the professor, explaining how the network acts as a huge sounding board for unverified news. The Internet is difficult to control, which is why the only way is to rely on information professionals.

“As Karl Popper would say, we have a duty to communicate in the simplest, most correct and humble way possible – said Mantovani – and the existence of a quality press has made doctors more responsible. We must account for what we do and say, not hide behind an incomprehensible language that often denotes unclear ideas. Comparison with quality information is a challenge to be met. I see two opposing poles: on the one hand, greater awareness of medical knowledge and, at the same time, a rejection of mediation by those who have competence. On an issue on which the scientific community has no doubt, such as vaccines, it is worth remembering that the part of the population that has the most reserves is the most educated. And the price of many nonsense has been paid by patients, in terms of suffering and lack of care”.

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