APSE Talk by Peter Vickers

June 1st

The next talk of the APSE lecture series, delivered by

Peter Vickers (Durham University).

Title: The Institute of Ascertaining Scientific Consensus, or, How to Measure Scientific Community Opinion and Influence People

When/Where: Thursday, June 1st, 3-5pm, HS 2H, NIG


A solid, international scientific consensus is the best signal humanity ever gets that a specific scientific statement articulates an “established scientific fact”. It is thus surprising that there currently exists no good way to measure the strength of scientific consensus regarding a specific statement of interest. Indeed, scientists themselves don’t know when a claim can be called a ‘fact’ (as Ernst Mayr used to complain, and as one IPCC author recently complained). A good method for quickly, efficiently assessing mass scientific opinion is urgently needed, especially given the rise in ‘fake news’ and misleading information in the public sphere. Perhaps most significantly of all, recent studies have demonstrated the power of expert-community consensus information to correct misconceptions of laypersons, and, crucially, impact upon relevant choices and actions of those laypersons (such as getting vaccinated against COVID-19). The Institute for Ascertaining Scientific Consensus (IASC) seeks to become humanity’s premier means for measuring scientific community opinion on a given statement of interest. In June 2023 it conducts its first mass survey, targeting 20,000 scientists across 30 different academic institutions.