Guide: "I don't know what to believe"

Every day we are bombarded with information about science from newspapers, radio and television programmes and the internet. Making sense of it all can be very difficult. What should be taken seriously? Which are ‘scares’? Sometimes scientists are reported as saying conflicting things. How do we know what to believe?

There is a system used by scientists to decide which research results should be published in a scientific journal. This system, called peer review, subjects scientific research papers to independent scrutiny by other qualified scientific experts (peers) before they are made public. Peer review can help you make sense of science stories as it tells you that the research has passed the scrutiny of other scientists and is considered valid, significant and original.

Peer review means that statements made by scientists in scientific journals are critically different from other kinds of statements or claims, such as those made by politicians, newspaper columnists or campaign groups. Science is therefore more than just another opinion.

This guide was produced by Sense About Science with sponsorship and help from: Elsevier, Wiley, Royal Pharmaceutical Society, MRC, Royal Society of Biology, Blackwell Publishing and Taylor & Francis Group. Published: 2005 (2nd edition)

To read the summary and download "I don't know what to believe", click here.

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