Isaac Newton is credited with the famous saying: “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.” But how did he know which shoulders to stand on? This Falling Walls Circle Round Table examines scientific credibility in two ways: first, by looking at how public trust in science functions; and second, by looking at scientists themselves, exploring the question of what makes research results credible within science.

Especially in the wake of the Covid pandemic in which science and research play a highly relevant role, we need to ask: What makes science credible? As the Senior Executive Editor at The Lancet, Sabine Kleinert has some insight to share: To judge scientific credibility, she is looking at trustworthy experts, at the context of a study, its number of participants, other works on the subject and transparency: why was a research planned, how was it conducted, and what are its limitations?

Scientific credibility has to be taught to the public

But scientific credibility not only has to be established within the realm of science. Even more importantly, science has to gain the trust of the public. “It is up to journalists and the media to explain to the public how science works and how and why different results and interpretations occur”, says Jeanne Rubner. Especially during the pandemic, a lot of trust may have been lost because results and studies were not presented in an ideal way.

“People need to be able to look behind science and not only at the results science is providing”, says Markus Weisskopf. For him, giving scientists a voice and a face plays a huge role in gaining scientific credibility. Ultimately, it all boils down to collaboration: Scientists, editors at scientific journals and science journalists need to work even closer together to convey the message and present the bigger picture in a credible and plausible way.