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Transparency breeds trust, ethicists say

Scientists need to change how they talk about risk and the challenges in assessing it when speaking to the public, delegates at the European Food Safety Authority’s annual meeting in Parma, Italy, have heard.

The communication of risk in food and drink studies is often flawed because researchers do not properly convey scientific uncertainties and their own preconceptions, speakers at the conference, which ran from 18 to 21 September, said. The result is media coverage that gives the wrong messages and can even be manipulative about the risks faced, the event heard.

David Spiegelhalter, who researches public understanding of risk at the University of Cambridge in the UK, said that communication of uncertainty is vital to winning public trust. Scientists should make sure that the information they are conveying is accessible, intelligible, assessable and usable, he said.

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