Ophelia Deroy: Persuading under Uncertainty – Challenges and Norms of Science Communication

Philosophy | Academic Year 2020/2021

Scientists, no less than politicians, need to be persuasive: as shown in recent vaccination and COVID-19 crises, they have a crucial role to play to change people's attitudes and beliefs. However, they need to do so without drawing on lengthy or technical arguments: communicating scientific findings to an audience of non-experts needs shortcuts and reformulations. One of the key challenges comes from communicating the epistemic uncertainty that characterises science: being persuasive requires clear-cut confident messages, but science is rarely clear-cut, and necessarily fallible. The project identifies this as a key and important dilemma: if scientists misrepresent the uncertainty around the scientific process, hypotheses and findings, they may gain influence, but be accused of being misleading. If they represent it transparently, they may lower their capacity to change people's minds. So how should the fallibility and epistemic uncertainty of science be communicated? Is it legitimate to simplify or hide the uncertainty of given scientific claims for the higher good of improving people’s beliefs?

The Research Group examined these timely questions by building on and pushing forward existing issues in epistemology, philosophy and psychology of persuasion and of science communication. This project's originality comes from taking a normative perspective on a topic most often considered from a strategic perspective: many papers look at how to effectively communicate science, while the Research Group will examine how legitimate this possibly effective communication can be.


Prof. Dr. Ophelia Deroy




Dr. Noga Arikha

Warburg Institute / Center for the Politics of Feelings (London) / Institut Jean Nicod (Paris)

Visiting Fellow


Prof. Paul Boghossian, Ph.D.

New York University / University of Birmingham

Previous Visiting Fellow


Prof. Joaquín Navajas, Ph.D.

Universidad Torcuato Di Tella

Previous Visiting Fellow


Tamara Niella, M.Sc.

University of Oregon

Previous Visiting Fellow

Social Psychology

Gloria Origgi, Ph.D.

Institut Nicod (CNRS- Ecole Normale Supérieure)

Previous Visiting Fellow

Philosophy and Social Sciences

Philippe Vellozzo, Ph.D.

University of Bordeaux

Previous Visiting Fellow


Emanuel Viebahn, Ph.D.

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Previous Visiting Fellow


Prof. Alberto Neftalí Villanueva Fernández

University of Granada

Previous Visiting Fellow


Further Members

Members of the CAS Research Group "Persuading under Uncertainty - Challenges and Norms of Science Communication"


  • Winter Semester 2021/22
    Trust in Science and the Problems of Fast Changing Evidence
    Panel discussion with Prof. Paul Boghossian, Ph.D. and Gloria Origgi, Ph.D.
  • Summer Semester 2022
    (No) More Stories: The New Challenges of Science Communication
  • Summer Semester 2022
    The Politics of Language
    Masterclass with Prof. Dr. Jason Stanley