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Science Denial: Lessons and Solutions

The New York Academy of Sciences and Rutgers Global Health Institute gather experts to discuss effective responses to the rejection of vaccines, climate change, GMOs, and beyond.

Published October 18, 2018

NEW YORK, October 18, 2018 — On Friday, November 2nd, the New York Academy of Sciences and Rutgers Global Health Institute will co-present a day long symposium that will delve into the history and cultural motivations of, challenges presented by, and future solutions to science denial. The event will take place at the Academy’s New York City headquarters in 7 World Trade Center.

The symposium is a follow-up to the highly successful sold-out evening program moderated by Science Friday’s Ira Flatow: “Science Denialism, Public Policy, and Global Health,” held in June, 2018.

“Those who deny science defy simple categorization — someone might be highly educated, politically liberal, accepting of climate change, but fearful of vaccines. We can no longer dismiss this problem as a lack of education, or ascribe it to one political ideology,” said Kari Fischer, PhD, Program Manager at the Academy. “Historical context and current research will be our guide as we seek to better understand the ‘why’ of science denial, and we are excited to share innovative ideas for reaching the ‘unreachable’ audience.”

Richard Marlink, MD, Director of Rutgers Global Health Institute, witnessed HIV/AIDS denial firsthand. “More than 330,000 people died in South Africa and 35,000 babies were born infected with HIV because of the ripple effects of science denialism,” Marlink said, recalling when that country’s government wouldn’t allow antiretroviral treatment drugs to be brought in, from 2000–2005, because the South African president was influenced by a scientist denying the clear evidence that HIV caused AIDS. “Despite the science, one vocal person’s false message contributed to these catastrophic consequences. A similar dynamic is unfolding with respect to climate change — with even more voices and new ways to communicate. From increases in weather-related disasters to the spread of disease-carrying mosquitoes, climate change is a serious threat to human health and life.”

Attendees will hear from some of the world’s leading experts in public health, communications, the history of science, journalism, policy and more, including:

Sheila Jasanoff, PhD, JD, Harvard Kennedy School, will deliver the keynote lecture, “Denial or Distrust? — On Not Solving the Wrong Problem,” and she will be joined by the following panel participants:

Session I: The History of Science Denial and its Consequences for Global Health

Moderator: Sheldon Krimsky, PhD, Tufts University

Panelists: Arthur Caplan, PhD, NYU School of Medicine; Elena Conis, PhD, UC Berkeley; David Rosner, PhD, MPH, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health; David Scheer, MS, Scheer & Co.; Nancy Tomes, PhD, Stony Brook University

Session II: Understanding the Spread of Science Denial

Moderator: Timothy Caulfield, LLB, LLM, University of Alberta

Panelists: Cornelia Betsch, PhD, Universität Erfurt; Michael Dahlstrom, PhD, Iowa State University; Kelly Greenhill, PhD, Tufts University, Harvard University; Miriam Metzger, PhD, UC Santa Barbara

Session III: Overcoming Science Denial: Studying the Successes and Failures

Moderator: Richard G. Marlink¸ MD, Rutgers Global Health Institute

Panelists: Allan Brandt, PhD, Harvard University; Hoosen Coovadia, MD, University of KwaZulu-Natal; Amanda Dempsey, MD, PhD, MPH, University of Colorado, Denver; Cathy Techtmann, MS, University of Wisconsin-Extension

Session IV: Elevating Science in Public Policy and Public Discourse

Moderator: Tiffany Lohwater, AAAS

Panelists: Dominique Brossard, PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Morgridge Institute for Research; Tamar Haspel, The Washington Post; Liz Neeley, MA, The Story Collider; Jerry Taylor, Niskanen Center

About the New York Academy of Sciences

The New York Academy of Sciences is an independent, not-for-profit organization that since 1817 has been committed to advancing science, technology, and society worldwide. With more than 20,000 members in 100 countries around the world, the Academy is creating a global community of science for the benefit of humanity. The Academy's core mission is to advance scientific knowledge, positively impact the major global challenges of society with science-based solutions, and increase the number of scientifically informed individuals in society at large. Please visit us online at

About Rutgers Global Health Institute

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, is distinguished in its many efforts to advance health and wellness, and its broad reach, diversity, and expertise provide opportunities to address a wide array of health challenges. As one of the outcomes of the university’s strategic planning, Rutgers Global Health Institute was recently established to help coordinate and catalyze work across Rutgers’ schools and campuses. The institute serves as a mechanism for focusing global health research, education, outreach, and leadership, and fosters collaboration among faculty from various disciplines. By partnering with communities and organizations beyond Rutgers, the institute improves the health and wellness of populations, locally and around the world. Visit Rutgers Global Health Institute online at


Marie Gentile

Director of Communications