June 9, 2023

Hardwood Paroxysm

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For a new scientific communication – Corriere.it

Dear Director, The world of “unmediated” information is one in which the traditional expression of the principle of authority has failed. There is no platform that has not experienced a crisis due to the pressure of “bottom-up” communication, in a context where mass communication is undergoing a permanent revolution and anyone can generate new contents. Even if the temptation to touch the strings of regret is strong, we should know that there are extraordinary opportunities: if someone has something to say, if they have the skills and ability to communicate it in a simple and effective way (which is not a natural occurrence). An innate talent but the fruit of skillful training), today an audience can be sought with relative ease. But there are also equally unusual risks. This is all the more true the closer we get to the topics and questions that directly concern the person. Health, for example.

The doctor-patient relationship, long inspired by a one-sided paradigm, has changed profoundly in recent years Requiring healthcare personnel to use – and sometimes learn to – a new communication form, more interactive but always aimed at overcoming apparent information asymmetries. However, when the very principle of authority enters into crisis, highly specialized repositories of knowledge do not necessarily make their own history. It urges the doctor to communicate not only with the patient, but in general with public opinion, to share information and knowledge with him. However, the moment he opens a social account, one deserves one: he too, regardless of his baggage of technical and specialized knowledge.

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The experience of the pandemic should not be forgotten. It was, in terms of connectivity, a paradoxical experience. The wide spread of social networks brings with it the danger of unfiltered and unselected information, “fake news”, which, if we can be relegated to the category of scenic when it comes to flat lands or creeping plots, becomes social problems when worrying, for example, about the remedies that They have not been scientifically vetted or proposed “trials” without obtaining experimental, experimental and regulatory feedback. On the other hand, the health emergency has made, for once, the sciences that in our country are traditionally on the fringes of major information circles, such as infectious diseases, immunology and epidemiology, available to the media. Precisely for this reason, these circles lack the vocabulary to discuss it carefully and end up doing the simplest, cheapest, and most dangerous thing: making talk show material out of it. That is, by reducing the specific knowledge of the expert, clinician, and scientist to a level of opinion that is not supported by data. When, in a moment of great tension and danger, public opinion sought authoritative insights, this authority was again undermined.

These are the reasons why our universities and we first of all thought about cooperation in the field of communication between science and medicine. Scientific knowledge is an inevitable reservoir of knowledge for understanding today and building for tomorrow. The participation of clinicians and scientists in the public debate is essential, even if we are not facing an emerging disease, but it does require a knowledge of the logic of the media and an awareness of the impact that public statements can have. Information and communication professionals must, alike, know and care about the scientific method, and also to learn not to reduce scientific information to graphs and graphs, to numbers whose rhetorical power today exceeds the power of any word but which risks causing further misunderstandings of that information. In short, not to confuse science (which is a method) with decontextualized data paganism.

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The challenge is to restore the principle of power On the only grounds possible today: namely, horizontal and interactive communications, devoid of the imprecision that so often characterizes the obsession with immediate interaction. With a keynote lecture in September and other joint initiatives, starting with the meeting with Carlo Verdon on the topic «Infodemic? No thank you! »We want to promote the necessary dialogue between medicine and the humanities. There is nowhere near as important as finding the right words at the end.

Gianni Canova is President of IULM and Marco Montursi, President of Humanitas University