Can one also be an atheist as a pastor? Is it credible to open a butcher shop as a vegetarian? And: how bad is it when you, as the boss of a popular science magazine, spend your free time alternative facts proclaim? Last week, the monthly magazine’s acting editor came out Quest, content director Lyn Kuyper, is also active as a lifestyle coach on Instagram. Through her account The Energy Feed, she promotes self-hypnosis and Oil extraction (gargling with oil) – activities that are not scientifically based, to say the least. It also “proves” the right of Masaru Emoto, the man who talked to two bowls of rice for a month: one affectionately, the other hateful. (The beloved rice remained fragrant, the reviled rice spoiled. A third bowl, completely ignored, molded the most. According to Emoto, it showed the destructive energy of hatred and neglect, but no objective evidence n was found.)
Quest-the publisher Hearst believes that in “a policy of diversity and inclusion (…) there must be room for one’s own vision and opinion”, according to an internal letter that was leaked on the website no style. According to the management, the Instagram account does not mean “that Lyn has a fundamentally different view of what science is”, but that she “leaves room for certain things that are not (fully) scientifically proven”.
I read the message with a knot in my stomach. Especially in an age full of online misinformation, you as a reader should be able to assume that a scientific editor considers objectivity of paramount importance. In theory, it is entirely possible that Kuyper mixes fact and fiction Quest will separate. But the fact that a major reorganization is now being implemented does not inspire much hope, nor does the fact that a NRCcolleague recently three (former)Quest-editors who fear that the magazine will take a radically different course. (Kuyper and Hearst declined to comment.)
“Communication, including science communication, is never effective,” writes literary scholar Liesje Schreuders in an opinion piece this week NRC. She militates there against the national center for scientific communication which will take shape on the initiative of Minister Dijkgraaf. According to Schreuders, communication is a term that “does not matter[gaat] of facts and values” and “clouds and confusion”. That she questions her own words (after all, all text is communication), of course, but suddenly she mows down all journalism.
Translated from Latin, Communicare means “to share” or “to make common”. Anyone who communicates about science, as a journalist or researcher, must strive to make knowledge objectively transparent. A science communication center can contribute to this.
Quest too? It’s a matter of waiting.
Gemma Venhuizen is editor-in-chief of biology at the NRC and writes a column there every Wednesday.
A version of this article also appeared in the newspaper of November 23, 2022
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