'Truth is losing' fight to stop misinformation in science, outgoing NIH director says

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Francis Collins, MD, PhD, outgoing director of the National Institutes of Health delivered strong words on misinformation in science in an interview with The Washington Post Nov 19.

Dr. Collins, who is set to step down from the agency by the end of the year  after 12 years of service, delivered his most direct comments on the spread of misinformation online, especially as it relates to public health.

"Conspiracies are winning here. Truth is losing. That’s a really serious indictment of the way in which our society seems to be traveling ," he told The Washington Post.

"Truth is supposed to be truth," Dr. Collins said, "and the fact that your truth would be so heavily modified by your social circle or where you get your news tells you we’re in real trouble."

He expressed concern for a society in which "somebody’s Facebook post carries as much weight as a statement from the director of the CDC about what is the truth of a public health crisis."

To combat rampant misinformation online, he suggested identifying the spreaders of misinformation and bringing them to justice, as well as finding ways to counter the falsities with accurate, real information. He said he's unsure of the success rate of either tactic.

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