Academia should push back against unscientific claims

Reply to Swedish Radio and Universitetsläraren

Paul O’Shea, Nicholas Loubere
This is a discussion article. The opinions expressed are the writer’s own.

In our opinion piece in Universitetsläraren we outlined how Vetenskapsradion investigated a Facebook group, and within days an unsubstantiated narrative of researchers engaging in hate campaigns and threatening other researchers dominated the Covid news cycle. These claims were repeated by powerful actors including the director of the Public Health Agency Johan Carlson, Karolinska Institute president Ole Petter Ottersen, and Minister Matilda Ernkrans (S), and reprinted across various media outlets including Universitetsläraren.

We asked for evidence of this hate or threats, and in its absence, we asked that those who have repeated the narrative, repudiate it.

No evidence was provided. No powerful actor has repudiated it.

In their response to our article Universitetsläraren incorrectly stated that they did not repeat the narrative. In fact, two recent articles (here and here) uncritically reproduce both Ernkrans’ and Ottersen’s comments.

From “Covid being like the flu”, to “Stockholm nearing herd immunity”, to “masks being dangerous”, and now ”researchers threatening researchers”, the past year has seen a series of false narratives being uncritically propagated across the media landscape and presented as fact by reputable outlets. What is worse, those who question the veracity of these narratives are publicly mocked, dismissed, and/or attacked. Our opinion piece and this response are a plea for academia to play its vital role and push back against unsubstantiated and unscientific claims, and to defend academic freedom and freedom of expression.

Paul O’Shea, Senior Lecturer (Docent)
Nicholas Loubere, Senior Lecturer (Docent)

Paul O’Shea, Nicholas Loubere

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