Stefan Gaillard

Much Ado About Nanothings: Exaggerated Claims in Nanobiology

Radboud University, Faculty of Science, Institute for Science in Society,

Supervisors: Prof. Cyrus Mody, Dr. Willem Halffman


I have a background in chemistry, historiography, and philosophy. My interests soon aligned on improving scientific practices, both methodologically as well as institutionally. This focus cultivated in – together with fellow students from my MSc in History and Philosophy of Science – founding the Journal of Trial and Error, a scientific journal aiming to publicize the lessons of the struggles in research. During my studies I also worked as a student assistant at the Open Science Community Utrecht (OSCU) for a year. In this position I was responsible for a multimedia science blog concerning Open Science and expanding the OSCU network.

Summary PhD Project

My PhD research is imbedded in the larger European project NanoBubbles, which focuses on how, when and why science fails to correct itself. In NanoBubbles we use three contested issues in nanobiology to study scientific error, error correction, overpromising, and trust. My own research focuses on how exaggerated claims occur within the field of nanobiology. My research will specifically focus on exaggerated novelty claims and overpromises. I will combine insights from philosophy, historiography, and sociology. To answer the question of how exaggerated claims occur I first conceptualize what exactly an exaggerated claim entails. Subsequently, I will look into historical examples of novelty claims and promises and how relevant actors debate these promises and novelty claims. Finally, I investigate how institutional and political policies (dis)incentivize novelty claims and overpromising. In the end, insights from the Nanobubbles project into the institutional and societal incentives for exaggerated claims can be used for policy recommendations regarding academic and political reform.


Gaillard, S. D., Oláh, Z. A., Venmans, S., & Burke, M. (2021). Countering the Cognitive, Linguistic, and Psychological Underpinnings Behind Susceptibility to Fake News: A Review of Current Literature with Special Focus on the Role of Age and Digital Literacy. Frontiers in Communication, 6, 141.

Gaillard, S. D. M., & Visser, J. (2022). Pockets, dresses and suppression–A philosophical reflection on clothing, agency, and identity. Technology in Society, 69, 101972.

Gaillard, S. D. M., & Pool, A. (2018). Van werkverschaffing tot soepkarren. Voedseldistributie in Utrecht 1700-1879 [From provision of labour to soup carts: Food distribution in Utrecht 1700-1879], Oud Utrecht, 91(4), 100-104.