Over the weekend I spent about 4 hours making some videos, writing some short Powerpoints with some images from online sources and assembling some rather random terms and making up “Shtuff” for April 1st. The result was the video shown below…and if you want to get the full story watch it end to end. See if you UNDERSTAND what I was talking about and whether it was convincing enough to be believable. The results might be different if you are a chemist versus you being a friend or family without a scientific background.
The next day I came clean. It was an April Fools joke. I described in detail how I created the effect in a separate video.
I expected most chemists to call me on the scam very early but that didn’t happen. In fact a number of scientists I know quite well commented very positively on it. Some were in emails and some on the social media platforms. Only one person called me on it early. Maybe lots of other chemists spotted the problems. Maybe they didn’t watch the video through and just trusted me. Nevertheless I know that people I respect were ready to repeat the experiment with their kids, try it in class and so on. One person commented on Facebook what I thought would happen “I think it is more a reflection of the credibility you have with the science community …”. I think this is likely true…for my family, my friends and many others. I am “trusted” by people and seen to be credible….but on April 1st I am not to be trusted for sure!!!
I have many examples of where credible people are trusted when there are obvious flaws in their statements. In the Open Science/Open Access/Open Data arena I see trust simply granted to many so-called experts when their arguments are full of assumptions/declarations/opinions and not fact-based. I encourage more questions and less granted trust!
I also believe that the premise of my second video is correct…language in our specialty areas allows us to isolate, confuse and, for some, stay aloof. The brilliant people I know around me are able to tell their stories of science in language that non-specialists can understand. That’s a special skill that we should all work on. Except, of course, on April 1st, where it helps!