Willem Halffman, Institute for Science in Society, Radboud University Nijmegen, and chairman of the WTMC education committee, and Cyrus Mody, Maastricht University, have been awarded an ERC Synergy Grant for their project “NanoBubbles: How, when and why does science not correct itself?” (October 2020). Co-winners of the grant are Raphaël Lévy (project coordinator, Université Paris Sorbonne Nord) and Cyril Labbé (Université Grenoble Alpes). Scientific research is based on the idea that any errors made must constantly be corrected. But in practice, it can be difficult to undo mistakes or exaggerated claims made in the past. This can lead to an erosion of trust in science. In the NanoBubbles project, data scientists, nano scientists and science researchers will investigate how erroneous claims in nanobiology can be rectified.
Nanobiology is a relatively young scientific field which has already seen a number of hotly contested claims. The researchers will study three controversies relating to what nanoparticles can do in the body. This will mean looking at how the controversies lead to polarisation among scientists, and at how new types of scientific communication might help build a consensus, or correct mistakes. For example, they will analyse how commentary on published research operates on systems such as PubPeer. The researchers will also design replication experiments in nanobiology. This will include participation by research sociologists and philosophers, looking at how to maximise the chances of a replication experiment in achieving scientific consensus.
Willem Halffman Cyrus Mody
(Photos from Radboud University Nijmegen and University Maastricht)