Guides

For almost 20 years we have worked with the public and experts to create guides and resources on topics that are misrepresented or misunderstood in public discussions.

Making Sense of Uncertainty: the slide guide

During the coronavirus pandemic we have seen a huge need for a greater shared understanding in how we can deal with uncertainty in scientific evidence. In response we have developed this update to our 2013 guide, Making Sense of Uncertainty working with Dr Matthias Wienroth from Northumbria University. Understanding what it means to be uncertain... More

Making Sense of Covid-19 Testing

In recent months there has been much discussion and confusion around what Covid-19 testing is, how it works, and what testing can and can't tell us. This short guide sets out what the tests are used for, how the tests work, the limitations and the differences between RT-PCR test and rapid tests. Please... More

Spanish edition: Making Sense of Forensic Genetics

DNA is present in most cells of our body. It is unique to each of us, and we leave a trail of it everywhere we go. Forensic investigators take advantage of this, using our DNA to draw conclusions about where we’ve been and who we’ve interacted with. DNA analysis has revolutionised forensic science.... More

How-to: Getting your research into the European Parliament

Research plays an important role in the European Parliament. Whether it's by helping Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) scrutinize proposals from the European Commission, or by helping these policy makers understand complex societal issues, research has a role to play. At the same time, getting research into parliament is important for individual researchers particularly when... More

Evidence Matters Ireland

On 14th November 2018 we launched Evidence Matters Ireland, supported by Science Foundation Ireland. Citizens from across the country went to the Oireachtas to tell policymakers why evidence matters to them. People and community groups went to Leinster House to tell TDs, Irish Members of Parliament, why evidence matters to the public and why they... More

Transparency of evidence: spot check

Transparency of evidence: a spot check of government policy proposals July 2016 to July 2017, scores 94 government policies produced by 12 departments, to assess how transparent they were about the evidence behind the policy. Why spot check evidence transparency?... More

Making Sense of Nuclear

The International Energy Agency projects that between 2014 and 2040 world energy demand will have increased by 37%. In recent years some prominent advocates for the environment have become advocates for nuclear power. Film directors, parliamentarians, journalists and environmental campaigners: people who once were opposed to nuclear power... More

Making Sense of Testing

A test result is not taken as a number in isolation. It gets compared to a range of values considered ‘normal’ for a healthy individual. This is called the reference range, and it’s what a doctor can use to interpret a set of results for individual patients. We... More

Making Sense of Forensic Genetics

We’re constantly shedding skin cells into our environment. But not everyone does this at the same rate. People who shed lots of skin cells — ‘high status shedders’ —are more likely to deposit DNA. A recent study found that people with atopic dermatitis shed four times as much DNA as healthy individuals. ... More

Transparency of evidence

The first ever review of whether the UK government is transparent about its use of evidence when developing policies finds that the public and researchers would struggle to follow the government’s reasoning, with standards of transparency varying widely between and within departments. Following on from this we have... More

I don’t know what to believe

There are around 28,000 scholarly and scientific journals that use the peer review system. A high proportion of these are scientific, technical or medical journals, publishing over 1 million research papers each year. Every day we are bombarded with information about science from newspapers, radio and television programmes... More

Making Sense of Crime

The use of violent video games isn’t linked with a rise in violent crime (in the USA). If anything there is a strong correlation the other way. There’s always heated debate about crime in the media and a lot of political argument about how we should respond to... More

I’ve got nothing to lose by trying it

It may feel reassuring to spend a lot on a treatment – ‘if it’s expensive, it must be good’. However, some of the most effective and commonly used drugs have been used for long enough to be ‘off-patent’, so have become very cheap. Living with a debilitating condition... More

Peer Review: the nuts and bolts

This is a nuts and bolts guide to peer review for early career researchers written by members of the VoYS network. Using a collection of concerns raised by their peers, the VoYS writing team set off to interview scientists, journal editors, grant bodies’ representatives, patient group workers and journalists in the UK and... More

Standing up for Science 2

A follow up to our popular Standing up for Science guide to the media, this guide offers more tips for early career researchers on standing up for science in public life including: writing to your MP and attending public meetings; engaging with local media; writing blogs and podcasts; and investigating product claims. This guide was... More

Standing up for Science

This guide was written by VoYS members for VoYS members. It's a lively and informal guide to how the media works, and practical tips about what you can do if your research area hits the news. Whether you’re worried about what your peers think of you speaking to the media or would not... More

Making Sense of Radiation

Pylons and EMFs have not been established as a cause of childhood leukaemia. Laboratory trials using animal models and other tests have found no biological mechanism to explain how EMF exposure from power lines could cause cancer. The booklet has been produced with the kind assistance of the... More

Making Sense of Screening

As tests become more accurate and pick up tiny aberrations, it is clear that very few of us are completely normal. Even though they are healthy, many people have ‘abnormal’ variations if subjected to a CT scan of the brain or endoscopy of the stomach. Public expectations about... More

Making Sense of Allergies

There isn’t one test to diagnose all allergies. Accurate diagnosis requires both a test and a medical consultation. This guide was produced in collaboration with the British Society for Immunology, Cochrane UK, Allergy Academy, Allergy UK, Asthma UK, Anaphylaxis Campaign and the British Society for Allergy & Clinical Immunology. [gallery... More

Making Sense of Chemical Stories

Cocktails don’t make you any more drunk than the equivalent alcohol in other drinks like beer. The mixing process has no effect. Scientists are worried about the growing disconnection between the lifestyle view of chemicals and the chemical realities of the world. They are worried not just because... More

Making Sense of Drug Safety Science

For every 100,000 chemicals researched, only four are eventually licensed for prescription. Most medical research aims to discover more about health and to find new ways to treat or prevent diseases. Within this, the science of how to make drugs safer has received relatively little research funding and... More

Making Sense of Uncertainty

Decision-makers generally look for a higher level of certainty for an operational decision (such as introducing body scanners in airports) than for a decision based on broader ideology or politics (such as reducing crime rates). Scientific uncertainty is prominent in research that has big implications for our society:... More

Making Sense of Statistics

Statisticians use standard levels of ‘unlikely’. Commonly they use significant at the 5% level (sometimes written as p=0.05). In this case a difference is said to be ‘significant’ because it has a less than 1 in 20 probability of occurring if all that is going on is chance. ... More

Making Sense of GM

The adoption of biological solutions such as insect-resistant crops, particularly GM cotton, is reducing the exposure of farm workers, most notably in India and China, to dangerous insecticides such as organo-phosphates. We have found it difficult to point people towards anything that could give them a direct way... More

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